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Lost murals by Italian Futurist rediscovered in Rome

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

Lost murals by Italian Futurist rediscovered in Rome
Giacomo Balla's mural, recently rediscovered in a building under renovation. Photo: Banca d'Italia/YouTube

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!”

READ ALSO: Why the Italian Futurists hated spaghetti, and other surprising pasta facts

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 BallaAlbright–Knox Art Gallery, PD-US, Wikimedia

CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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