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Finding Fidardo Landi: Being patient with research

June 21, 2012

My daughter, Alexandra, and my niece, Casey, recently took the trip of their lifetime to Italy.  They flew to Rome, traveled to Carrara, met a distant relative who gave them a private tour of the city, the marble quarry and even the family cemetery. They met other relatives, took 2,000 photos, dreamed and fell in love with their history.  Italy is where their much of story begins.

I told Alexandra not to bring me home any souvenirs. This was her trip. She should buy something for herself. I wanted her to bring me back memories and stories. She knew I would inhale every single photo she shot.

“If you bring me anything back,” I said, “just pick up a rock off the ground, so that I know I have a rock from Carrara, Italy.”

Upon their return, Alex gave me a small hand carved turtle in white Carrara marble, a rock from the motherland. I find myself holding it the way I do my rosary beads that were once owned by my great grandmother, Louisa Biggi Landi. Maybe I’m hoping for some special energy, or hidden wisdom to suddenly appear while I’m holding a fresh piece of white Carrara marble. It’s silly really.

Alex and Casey took the trip I dream about making.

I want to fly to Italy, and have someone drop me off in Carrara. I want to speak with restorationists at the Accademia Di Belle Arti about the work my great grandfather, Fidardo Landi, did in his youth that now sits in the local museum. I want to know what they learned – what they felt about him – during the restoration. I wonder how it compares to his later work.

I want to know more about the life of a professional sculptor in Carrara during that period in history (the 1880’s to 1920’s).

I want a full-day tour of a marble quarry, to learn about the process where giant blocks of mother nature’s finest artwork is mined from the center of the earth. I want to know what determines a good piece of marble for sculpture, in both hard and soft marble.  I want to know what inspires a sculptor when they touch a block of marble, caressing it slowly to determine whether it is precise enough for the work they envision. I might need several days in the quarry, really, because I ask just too many questions.

I want someone in town, a mayor perhaps, to tell me more about the vision of my great, great grandfather Alessandro Biggi, who proposed a widening of the roads around Carrara more than 100 years ago to make it easier for marble to be exported to the world. I want tour of his work, too. I have one photo of him wearing a full suit while standing on a beach with my grandmother, about 1910, and one very faded photo of him in his studio, shot from behind, while he worked on a bas-relief of a woman in a graduation cap and gown.

I want to physically touch their public works of art without getting arrested or someone thinking I’m a vandal. (I will need the mayor for this part of the tour.) I want to spend the day on an eight to 10-foot ladder with cameras strapped on either side of me, shooting all the public works of art that are more than 15 feet in the area. I want to shoot every angle of their sculptures. It is in their close review that I see the life story come alive.

I can see the tension in movement that both Landi and Biggi saw in their work. A statue of people should never appear to be fully at rest, but rather have a sense that it is about to move again. That’s what made their work so real. You can still see it breathe.

Someday I will make that trip myself, after I learn enough Italian to speak with the locals and be comfortable enough to ask them a few questions about living in the city of art.

I have to have patience. Until then I will remind myself of my great grandparents favorite expression: Chi va piano, va sana, e va lontano (Translation: He who goes slowly and swiftly, goes far.) Isn’t it funny that of all the items Alex could have brought me from Italy she chose a turtle, the one little item that could symbolize my patience with researching my great grandfather’s artwork.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Vicki permalink
    February 1, 2013 10:00 pm

    Wow…I own a Landi from 1917 that my famous Uncle gave to me…this is exciting
    to now know the history of Landi….

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