For us every statue is a prayer

2012-09-19 L’Osservatore Romano

Rethinking the “Resurrection” of the Vatican papal audience hall, where Pericle Fazzini could be found hard at work in the Seventies, implies a fascinating and difficult voyage in search of those meaningful clues which could have led to the “inevitability” of such an extraordinary accomplishment. The chronicle of events may seem superfluous and common. The artist himself wanted to make known in an autobiographical page how much his physical and moral commitment to this special commission, certainly the most important of his life, costed him. Pericle Fazzini, „Projekt rzeźby Zmartwychwstania” (1970-1975). But in order to fully understand the ultimate meaning that Fazzini, in his waning days, could have given to the masterpiece in Nervi Hall, symbolic place of contemporary piety, it is necessary to go back in time, by way of the backwards trajectory of his religious and non-religious work. One must read between the lines of his diaries, written in a hurry or after long meditation in those moments of sadness and loneliness when he often retreated into himself. One must also know how to listen to the “hymns of joy” and the reasons for the intimate requiem modulated with an even frequency, by the artist in order to aid historical events, so dense, which run parallel to consuming his existence.

The result of such a survey of art could not delude us. Everything began in the Thirties with the arrival of the young man from Grottammare, a city on the Adriatic, to the capital of Italy, where between friends and enemies, he rapidly entered in the lively and diverse circle of the Roman School. In these years a kind of re-thinking began of the specific and limited context of sacred art which had suffered with the birth of the avant-garde movements and the dramatic and in some ways irreconcilable rift between the Church and artists. 

In his presentation for the 21st Biennale in Venice, Fazzini confessed to having had a deep spiritual crisis as a teenager. The religious yearning that enlivened him soon was accompanied by the impatient desire to define his own style with cultural references ranging in tradition and modernity. It is clear from his brief statements that the terms “art and religion” communicate and converge, if in their respective channels, in a single sentiment of faith: “for us, young people, every statue is a prayer”. Fazzini tells of  the artist's supreme mission in this first phase: the liberation from the material as a conquest of a higher harmony, the image of the body “formed by air” raised by the ascension to non-earthly sphere, stating, “I am able to create and show my brothers what they also feel. I am the voice of their words, I am their words and I bring them to God. I am the voice of the voices”.

The first contact between Fazzini and the governor of the Vatican, Count Galeassi, date back to 1965, regarding the execution of a large statue for the papal audience hall, designed by Pierluigi Nervi. This project involved a long negotiation which lasted for many years until the solemn inauguration of the work on 28 September 1977. Previously in June 1973 when the contemporary sacred art section of the Vatican Museums was opened, Fazzini was already busy drawing up the “Resurrection”.

In the summer of 1975 the sketch was ready. A month later Fazzini was struck with a blood clot, caused by the toxic fumes from the burning plastic to which for months he had been exposed. But getting back on his feet he followed through with the further steps of the work. The polystyrene sculpture was cut into sections and sent to the foundry for its casting, done with a mix of bronze and brass (800 quintals or 8 tons of metal were needed). In the end the artist watched the subsequent work of welding the pieces. Fazzini's course came to an end on 4 December 1987. His unwavering faith in God and in art accompanied him until his last thoughts.

Chiara Barbato