The Artwork of the Month - August 2022

Benedetta Cappa Marinetti (Benedetta)
(Rome 1897 - Venice 1977)
Velocità di motoscafo, 1919-1924
Oil on canvas, 70 x 110 cm
inv. AM 890

Velocità di motoscafo, 1919-1924

Velocità di motoscafo by Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, a masterpiece of Futurist painting, describes from an elevated viewpoint the passage of a motor boat through the sea waves, a movement that results in a complex geometric construction formed by multiple lines of colour converging towards a centre, from which a serpentine parabola starts. Dynamic and colourful elements of geometric form alternate with a rhythmic cadence, fading into the sea as far as the background plane, towards the horizon. The depiction focuses not so much on the boat darting in the sea, but on the effects of movement generated in the water by the multiplication of the waves. The artist herself sums up the essence of the painting as "the arabesque imprinted by the speed of a motorboat in the blue flesh of the bright blue sea of the noontide" (1924). With an even more suggestive reading, Lea Vergine saw in this work an 'abstract representation of the "force lines" of the object's motion and the "force lines" of its action on matter, expressed by spirals, semi-ellipses and triangles, according to the principle of "trajectory" and "penetration"' (1980). This mode naturally evokes the studies produced from 1912-1913 by Giacomo Balla - whose pupil Benedetta had been - aimed at translating movement into repeated geometric forms.

It is also interesting to note the similarities between the painting Velocità di motoscafo and the graphic panels accompanying Benedetta's first novel, Le Forze Umane, published in 1924, in which, with exquisitely futurist experimentalism, the psychological dynamics of the characters are described through abstract visualisations, translating moods into geometric forms.
The dating of the work fluctuates between 1919 and 1924 (date of publication in the Futurist magazine "Noi"); more precisely, if we follow the testimony of the set designer Virgilio Marchi noted in a draft for the never realised book Scorci futuristi, the work would date back to the long stay on the island of Capri that Benedetta and Marinetti spent in 1922.

Benedetta Cappa was born in Rome in 1897. A multifaceted artist with a broad cultural background (literature, philosophy and pedagogy), she ranged from painting to stage design to writing. A pupil of Giacomo Balla from 1917, she met her future husband Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in Rome, whom she married in 1923 and with whom she shared militancy in the Futurist avant-garde. She was one of the signatories of the Manifesto of Aeropittura (1929), which explains her predilection for visions from above and from afar, beyond the traditional limits of pictorial vision, as this painting well testifies. After Marinetti's death in 1944, Benedetta abandoned her artistic activity to dedicate herself to passing on and spreading the work of her husband and the Futurist movement.
Velocità di motoscafo was exhibited in Rome in 1929 at the 3rd Exhibition of Maritime Art and on that occasion purchased by the Governorate for the civic collections.

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