curated by Claudio Domini and Cristina Ghergo
3 April - 8 July 2012
In the panorama of "studio" photography in Italy from the 1930s to the 1950s, Arturo Ghergo is unquestionably the figure who best personifies the aspiration towards the ideal of beauty and elegance evoked by the Anglo-Saxon world by the term glamour.
Born in Montefano in the province of Macerata in 1901, Ghergo moved to Rome in 1929 and opened a photography studio in the highly central location of via Condotti. Within the space of a few years he had managed to make a name for himself as the most sought-after portrait artist in Rome. His work was much in demand with movie stars, with politicians, with personalities from the world of culture, and above all, with the city's high society which was anxious to use every means, including photography, to reaffirm its traditional role at the head of society which a new phase in history was in danger of calling into question, and which very often lent its prestige to the then embryonic fashion industry. The models of the day, carrying the grand-sounding names of the "beau monde", included a very young Marella Caracciolo long before she was married to Fiat's Giovanni Agnelli, or Consuelo Crespi, Mary Colonna, Josè del Drago and Irene Galitzine.
But above all, it was the world of the movies that placed the exaltation of its photogenic qualities in Ghergo's hands. In the years in which Italy was setting off down the path of self-sufficiency in the celluloid industry, the country's film stars were determined to use Ghergo's skilled lens to ensure that the Italian movie-going public did not miss the celebrities from across the Atlantic. From Isa Miranda to Mariella Lotti, Leda Gloria, Alida Valli, Marina Berti, Assia Noris, Maria Denis, Valentina Cortese, Clara Calamai, Paola Barbara, Amedeo Nazzari, Massimo Girotti and right on into the 1950s with Sophia Loren, Silvana Pampanini, Gina Lollobrigida, Silvana Mangano and Vittorio Gassman and these are only the top names in a catalogue that would bear comparison with that of Mozart's Don Giovanni, yet in addition to all of this there is also the endless list of aspiring starlets, all transfigured by Ghergo's touch into sophisticated demigoddesses.
Ghergo's iconographic formula ensured that he was to enjoy a practically unchanged reputation and immense public consideration right up to his premature death in 1959. Even as fashions changed and as new forms of expression were being introduced and tested with colour photography, advertising and painting, Ghergo remained essentially loyal to his style, continuing to evince his own personal and unfaltering allegiance to the cult of beauty -- a beauty which was not necessarily real, which may have been the result of a chemical and physical recording process in analog mode, but which was laboriously and meticulously constructed with the contrived, exalted and inspiring light that lay more in Ghergo's mind than in his sitter's features.