Lost murals by Italian Futurist rediscovered in Rome

Jessica Phelan
Jessica Phelan - [email protected]
Lost murals by Italian Futurist rediscovered in Rome
Giacomo Balla's mural, recently rediscovered in a building under renovation. Photo: Banca d'Italia/YouTube

Murals painted by one of the founding fathers of the Futurist movement, Giacomo Balla, has been rediscovered in a building under renovation in Rome.


The boldly coloured murals, which cover around 80 square metres of walls and ceiling, once decorated the Bal Tic Tac, the nightclub opened by Balla in 1921. 

His paintings were believed lost after the club was shut down and the building put to other use, but some of the original decor reemerged during a renovation of the premises, which now belong to the Bank of Italy.

While the first-floor ballroom was painted over, the decoration on the ground floor survived for decades hidden under wallpaper, a false ceiling and wooden panels.

Balla's murals today. Photo: Banca d'Italia

The bank, which said it had been working with specialists to uncover Balla's murals since first detecting them last year, plans to leave the paintings in place.

They will be visible to the public as part of the Bank of Italy's new museum, which is scheduled to open in 2021 – exactly 100 years after the Bal Tic Tac debuted.

Get a preview in this video:

Located at the corner of Via Milano and Via Nazionale, the Bal Tic Tac was the first of a new wave of cabaret clubs that aimed to unite the dynamic, experimental style of painting being developed by Balla and other Italian artists with the new kinds of music pioneered by jazz players in the US. 

It quickly became one of the most fashionable nightspots in Rome, drawing the hip crowd with its inventive musical programme, wild dancing and reputation for hedonism. According to the leader of its house jazz band, a sign hung over the entrance to the room where they performed: "If you don’t drink champagne, go away!"

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Contemporary visitors were equally struck by Balla's murals. One reporter at the time described the club's decor as "a triumph of skillful imagination", at once clashing, playful and exuberant: "The very walls seem to dance... They create a luminosity that looks like a carnival in the sky."

Futurism developed close ties to Italian nationalism and Fascism, and fell out of favour after World War II. Balla, who died in 1958, is best remembered for his attempts to capture motion in painting. Today his works are part of collections in cities around the world, including Turin, Venice, Paris, London and New York.

Photo: Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash by Giacomo Balla - Albright–Knox Art Gallery, PD-US, Wikimedia


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