The Octopus (The molluscs, Pierina has arrived in a big city)


Fondazione Cariplo

Fondazione Cariplo
Milan, Italy

“In the summer of 1929 he went to Collepardo, a town of the Ciociaria. His health had miraculously recovered, he climbed, he ran, the wound had left only a scar and in a few years it would not have left any traces on his chest […]. This was the most wonderful moment for Scipione”. With these words Mario Mafai in the article commemorating his friend, who died in 1933 due to the serious lung disease that was afflicting him, recalls that brief creative season, furious and burning, which led to the full maturation of the pictorial language of Scipione and to his definitive consecration with the exhibition at the Galleria di Roma in 1930. In this fundamental review dedicated to both artists, on the initiative of Pier Maria Bardi, included were some of the masterpieces of Scipione such as The Cardinal Dean (Rome, Galleria di Roma Capitale), which had already been presented at the Venice Biennale, The Bridge of Angels, The Mestizo purchased by Roberto Longhi, and the series of still lifes, including Dead Birds, Opened Figs, Sole fish and The Molluscs. These were visionary compositions and of great expressive power that combine among themselves objects - combs, feathers, fruit - with extraordinary inventive freedom, such as Still Life with Feather (1929, private collection), almost a mannerist joke, in which a coconut and lemons are arranged to compose a face and two breasts; or the Ace of Swords (1929, private collection), a ritual of black magic with the severed heads of deers, the dagger, the raven’s feathers, the salt. “The octopus - as Leonardo Sinisgalli states in 1944 - had a long title in the style of certain fables of Bifur and some ‘feulleiton’ novels that the surrealists brought into fashion: Pierina has arrived in a big city”. Pierina is the young woman with a naive expression of the photograph, on which the octopus flaccid like a glove stretches out its tentacles, interweaving with the eel, evoking an intercourse and the inevitable corruption that comes from contact with the big city, the Rome splendid and obscure of the Cardinal Dean and views of Castel Sant’Angelo. The work renews the tradition of Baroque still lifes, meditations on the fragility of existence and, at the same time, communicates the disruptive urgency of life through matter spread in thick and rich brush strokes and the chromatic igniting of bright reds and lakes, vine black and yellow.


  • Title: The Octopus (The molluscs, Pierina has arrived in a big city)
  • Creator: Gino Bonichi, known as Scipione
  • Creator Lifespan: 1904/1933
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Arco di Trento
  • Creator Birth Place: Macerata
  • Date: 1929/1929
  • Physical Dimensions: w71 x h60 cm (Complete)
  • Provenance: Fondazione Cassa di Rispamio della Provincia di Macerata
  • Type: Painting, oil on panel
  • External Link: http://www.artgate-cariplo.it/

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