ANDhere is a slew of ladies who have found themselves in the role of muses. Some rode the tiger with skillful ease, others were destroyed by it. Serena Dandini in his book Revenge of the Muses (HarperCollins) pays homage to women of different erasconsciously or unconsciously, assumed the role once intended only for goddesses, but often forgotten.
Talents in some cases suffocated, sometimes shining, most of the time too ahead of their time. Whether exalted or denigrated, the earthly muses have always had to deal with their contemporaries, especially male ones, ready to relegate them to subordinate roles or to appropriate their ideas. In the background, even if it does not appear in the volume, Virginia Woolf hovers as a tutelary deitywho taught us to always rely only on our abilities.
Serena Dandini and her too often forgotten muses
How did the idea for this book come about?
«I wanted to shine a spotlight on stories of women who have done extraordinary things in times more difficult than ours».
How did you choose your muses?
«Hard choice. I have included those that have had value for me and which may also have value for the reader. Muses who can give us a shock. Including bad teachers. Not all that glitters is gold. Marianne Faithfull, for example, paid a very high price. For me, as a teenager, she was a beacon, as well as being Mick Jagger’s girlfriend. Her story is a story of resurrection.”
Does he still have the rosebud thrown to fans by Mick Jagger?
“I kept it in my twelve-year-old diary for decades. Maybe after hearing about Marianne I blended it.”
Tragic muses and masterful muses.
«Who among us hasn’t fallen into a toxic story? Two examples: the sculptor Camille Claudel, student and lover of Auguste Rodin, and the photographer Dora Maar with Picasso. Others, like Alma Mahler (later Werfel and many others), wife of the great composer, or Gala, partner of Salvador Dalí, were able to be true masters of “musism”, balancing unscrupulousness and ambition. The muses teach us to go against the rules, to free ourselves from guilt. They show us the paths to follow and those to avoid.”
The autonomy that extinguishes violence
«Yes, with Artemisia Gentileschi. Artist capable of a crazy revolution: becoming her own entrepreneur in an era in which women were barely allowed to paint. She has achieved what I call the “Holy Grail” of true feminism. Support yourself and be recognized as authoritative.”
Do the photos spark your curiosity?
«I was attracted by Julian Wasser’s photo of Eve Babitz in 1963, playing chess naked with Marcel Duchamp. “I was overweight, I thought I was ugly, but I was still beautiful,” says Eve, who was 20 years old. A short circuit for us eighteen-year-olds who never felt up to the task.”
According to Eve, women today are less free than in her time.
“Yes. The recklessness, the audacity, the freedom to not care about the judgment of others has been lost. The teacher in this was the writer Colette, the polar opposite of political correctness, unsurpassed in breaking down taboos. In Chéri even that of love between a mature woman and a young man.”
An unexpected muse?
«Catherine Dior, sister and muse of Christian Dior, who dedicated the Miss Dior fragrance to her, rich in all floral essences. I considered it a bourgeois perfume. As a girl I preferred patchouli and wanted to go to India. But Catherine’s story is anything but bourgeois.”
Female scientists robbed of their discoveries
The ladies of science could not be missing.
«A world of indomitable protagonists, often robbed of the “maternity” of their discoveries. Like Sophie Germain – an involuntary muse, but a true myth – 18th century French mathematician, discoverer of prime numbers. Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, the first computer programmer. Or Nettie Stevens, geneticist and microbiologist, who identifies the male XY and female XX chromosomes. And what about Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood’s most beautiful star and brilliant inventor? In our times, against all stereotypes, the voice of Amalia Ercoli-Finzi, aerospace engineer, known as the “Lady of the Comets” rises. She is the muse who shines for her commitment to female empowerment.”
Women and freedom.
«It is the image of Marianne, who in Eugène Delacroix’s painting gallops breasts in the wind against the tyrant. A picture that arouses scathing and sexist judgments. And then Anita Garibaldi, the partisan Francesca Del Rio, up to the Iranian girls and women, who I wanted to remember.”
We can consider them mothers of the homeland.
“Mothers of the Homeland” is the theme of his Women’s Heritage Festival, which just ended. Starting from Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, who had bequeathed the complex of the Medici collections to Florence, preventing their dispersion. During the festival we recalled the 21 deputies (out of 556 deputies) who participated in the drafting of our Constitution and we did a review of the existing laws that concern women, up to those that do not yet exist. With a barrage of events and guests.”
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