Saturday, December 16, 2017

Futurism and Camouflage | A Wood-Turned Effigy

Mussolini Bust (1933), Renato Bertelli
Above In 1933, the Italian Futurist artist Renato Bertelli (1900-1974) produced a series of portrait heads of Benito Mussolini in what is sometimes known as the "aereoceramica style." It is a 360-degree portrait, a "continuous profile," somewhat related in concept to stop motion photography.

In another publication, we pointed out the similarity between Bertelli's Mussolini bust and an earlier illustration by American artist Charles Dana Gibson, published around 1903 (reproduced below), in which a man's head moves back and forth, as he pays attention equally to the beautiful "Gibson girls" on either side.

Charles Dana Gibson (c1903)

More recently, we came across a newspaper article, titled Souvenir Vase That Shows Dutch Queen's Face, accompanied by a drawing of a comparable continuous profile bust (see below). The article was published in the Boston Globe (based on an earlier article in the New York World), July 27, 1899, p. 6—

When Queen Wilhelmina of Holland was crowned the opportunity was supplied for every inventor in her realm to do his best to honor the occasion. A facsimile of one of the cleverest bits of workmanship executed in commemoration of her majesty's coming to the throne has just reached this country.

It is a souvenir effigy turned in wood. The wood was brought from India at enormous cost, and its exquisite shades and markings are well worth the attention of a queen. The design is very clever and the workmanship extraordinarily delicate.

Portrait of Queen Wilhelmina (1899)

A plain beveled bar of wood is the foundation for the wooden portrait. To this background is fastened a piece of carving of a semicylindrical shape, bearing a series of ridges which at first sight seem fantastically devised.

It will be seen, however, that the outer line of the wood, when held in any position, is the counterpart of the young queen's profile. The likeness is so cleverly suggested that Wilhelmina herself is said to have been highly pleased with the fanciful tribute.…


Paul K. Saint-Amour, "Modern Reconnnaissance" in Modernism/Modernity. Vol 2 No 1, 2003, p. 350—

By 1918, young British aviators were being trained to see an avant-garde exhibition unfurling beneath their cockpits: a First World War Air Force photo atlas for new pilots used "FUTURIST country" and "CUBIST country" in its taxonomy of aerial landscapes, alongside more everyday mneumonic headings such as "FRUIT GROWING" and "PATCHWORK QUILTING."