Art inspiration from my grandparents

Visiting an art exhibition at the "Salone degli Incanti" di Trieste - le Stanze Segrete di Vittorio Sgarbi

This summer when I was in my town of Trieste, in Italy, I had the pleasure of visiting an exhibition entitled 'The Secret Rooms of Vittorio Sgarbi'. Sgarbi is a famous Italian art historian and art critic. He always liked Trieste for his art and historical inheritance, and we were lucky enough to have him showcase part of his private collection and art foundation in our city, including a large segment of artists from Trieste itself. Between such artists, he acquired and displayed paintings from both my grandmother and grandfather; Mirella Schott Sbisà and Carlo Sbisà. 

'Le stanze segrete di Sgarbi' (the secret rooms of Sgarbi), was set up in a beautiful building, full of natural light, right on the waterfront of Trieste. The location was in fact the old fish market, now called 'Salone degli Incanti' (enchantment salon). Inside, the space is wide and really luminous as the light multiplies between the works of art. The abundance of natural light makes it an ideal location for art exhibitions. 

Contrasting the big and open central nave of the building, small segments in 'secret rooms' were created for a more intimate observation of some paintings, thus letting the viewer experience both a wider, and a more intimate, smaller rapport with art. 

My grandmother loved to paint 'Nature morte' (still life) compositions, often drawn from everyday life and common objects, in an artistic way. Sgarbi chose two of her paintings, beautifully presented in a section on books, in between a book sofa, book lounge and giant book shelf. She had a way of restructuring geometrically and simplifying forms in her paintings, arranging them into something more special. I remembered seeing the paintings for years in her house, and I was touched and happy to see them shared and exposed for more people to see in a prestigious art exhibition such as the 'secret rooms'. 

Stepping into the main Nave, one could see the large and impressive sketches on display by my grandfather Carlo Sbisà. The 'cartons' were preliminary works for big affrescos, commissioned by the Museum of Renaissance, which depict soldiers from the First World War. Another series of 'Cartoni' represents the allegories (cities imagined as women) of the cities of the region: Trieste, Grado, Aquileia e Pola. They were used as real life sketches and guides of the 'affresco', a painting technique directly on walls. 

I admired Carlo's classical hand and elegant, harmonious style. He worked a lot and researched the details of hands, body postures and expressions. His drawings are a constant inspiration for my photographic work, especially in posing and the details of body position. Sgarbi describes and draws attention in a fantastic way to the finer details of paintings and drawings, that could otherwise be missed. 

Moving back to the more intimate rooms, Sgarbi collected numerous paintings and drawings from my grandfather, but also from many other artists from Trieste: Leonor Fini, Umberto Veruda, Arturo Nathan, Bruno Croatto and more. It was touching to see my grandparents work in between amazing names of local and Italian artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Guercino and Lotto and to be able to admire them in a beautiful space such as the Salome degli Incanti. 


My beautiful city of Trieste  

Views of the waterfront of the Italian city of Trieste.

Views of the waterfront of the Italian city of Trieste.