Cultivating Heroes: From Dante and Caboto to Mussolini, The Public Art of Montreal's Italians in the 1920s - 1930s

Type of resource
Author/collaborator
Title
Cultivating Heroes: From Dante and Caboto to Mussolini, The Public Art of Montreal's Italians in the 1920s - 1930s
Abstract
The first commemorative public art works commissioned by the Italians of Montreal were produced in the period between the two world wars. They are Dante (1922), a bronze bust made by Carlo Balboni, originally located in Lafontaine Park; Giovanni Caboto (1935), a bronze statue by Guido Casini in what was once called Western Park; and a mural painting that included Mussolini by Guido Nincheri completed in 1933 for the Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense in Little Italy in the Mile End district. The author points out that the works were made to mark historical anniversaries that were important to Italian national identity as it was developing during this period in Montreal, in Italy, and throughout the Italian diaspora. She argues that this geographically fragmented nationalism was made more complex still by the difficult social and economic realities of immigrant life. Given the precarious status of Italian immigrants, the valiant qualities and extraordinary achievements of the heroes represented in the artworks helped promote group solidarity and confidence. However, the cultural icons were also used to support the ambitions of the Italian elite who managed and directed the sponsorship of the works. The works were used to lobby for a greater share of social and political power both inside and outside the community. The author concludes that the two most important linguistic groups in Montreal, the English and the French, also benefited from these same historical icons in their competing efforts for political and cultural primacy in Montreal. All hoped to capitalize on the national pedigree these mythic figures seemed to confirm; a cultural heritage that was as much based on fiction as it was on history. The author's illustrated discussion examines the complex web of rhetorical conventions announced by art when it is made to speak in the public interest.
Type
PhD dissertation
University
Concordia University
Place
Montreal
Date
2004
Language
en
URL
Citation
Carlevaris, Anna Maria. “Cultivating Heroes: From Dante and Caboto to Mussolini, The Public Art of Montreal’s Italians in the 1920s - 1930s.” PhD dissertation, Concordia University, 2004. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/thesescanada/vol2/QMG/TC-QMG-8202.pdf.
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