36. Alfredo Biagini

Baboon
Rome, 1930
Size: 50 cm high
Marble

Alfredo Biagini (1886–1952) is not a name well known today, unlike Gino Severini with whom he worked closely in the 1920s. Severini’s role in Italian Futurism endears him to the current custodians of correct thought about 20th-century art, whereas Biagini worked in a now unfashionable classical style reworked with Art Deco precision. By the mid-1920s, Severini had come to the conclusion that Apollinaire had been right about the futility and provincialism of Italian Futurism, and had given up on the project. Meanwhile, by the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s Biagini was the best-known and most sought-after sculptor in Rome.

The Baboon was made for the Cinema Barberini, the finial for the bannister of the grand marble staircase up to the Royal Circle. The space for the cinema became available once the Barberini stables for horses and carriages became obsolete, and the architect Marcello Piacentini was commissioned to design the newest and grandest cinema in Rome by the film director Roberto Rosselini’s father.

The quality of Biagini’s work is evident. Few animalier sculptures are so revealing of an animal’s character. And the way he has used the marble to suggest its fur is brilliant. On an imaginative level it is tempting to see the Baboon’s malevolent stare directed towards the Fascist fashionistas that paraded up and down the staircase on which he was obliged to sit.

R. Pacini, Il cinema teatro Barberini, Emporium, lXXII, 1930, pp. 382s.