The Mercury Hall, which houses journalists and press conferences, is decorated with photos of the Flying Mercury (1580), by Giambologna realized for the Opera di Firenze by Mimmo Jodice.
All started with a phone call from the Commissioner of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Francesco Bianchi, who, along with Robert Koch, founder and partner of the Agency Contrasto and accomplice of many photographic adventures, was inviting me to Florence: “we would like to see you here on a private visit to the National Museum of Bargello. Our idea is that your shots may decorate a “special” space in the Opera di Firenze”. Of course, knowing that at 80 years old I seldom work on commission and I have the privilege of choosing my subjects independently, they didn’t press the matter, until, thanks to the courtesy of the director of the Bargello, Beatrice Paolozzi Strozzi, I could stay face to face with the sculpture chosen for me: the famous Flying Mercury by Giambologna.
Study of ancient art is not new for me. After the research work done on Michelangelo, Antonio Canova, in Paestum and Pompeii, many sculptures have captured the attention of my camera lenses on several occasions but, before deciding, I had the privilege of being alone and in silence, watching that piece of unique art – 1,7 meter high, as beautiful as a young athlete, slender and agile, with his right arm stretched upward – and I observed it for a long time, shooting photographs in my mind, imagining a certain light, a certain angle of the shots. To convince me at all, however, it was the visit to the Opera di Firenze: when it comes to theater in our country, the image that springs to mind is the classic Italian-style theater with antlers, stuccoes and red velvet, and I never imagined to experience such an emotion when visiting the space of a work of contemporary architecture, with a lounge and a wonderful outdoor which overlooks the city; is the first time, then, that an Opera House chooses photography as a narrative element and I was challenged by the idea that the press room would become the room of my Mercury. So I agreed and from that day I woke up for weeks with Mercury in the eyes and heart.
In order to create the three black and white images as i’ve imagined them, as to create some sort of continuity, almost mirroring one another, I spent an entire, rainy day in the Bargello – desert and even more exciting, silent, almost metaphysical – with my crank Hasselblad.
Setting aside any philological research and formalism, with sculptures I love working on the details but with “him” it was difficult to isolate any; Mercury, with the breath of Zephyr which supports him by the front of the left foot was very stimulating, but before the camera he became almost impertinent, a material difficult to grasp, even more so from the point of view of the image in black and white, who became a very complex range of light and dark. He was offering me with generosity and then suddenly escaped me, with all his shape ready to follow the right forefinger, highest of all, with the gleam of the dark side to make it difficult to give plasticity to the image, with its reflected light that created an aggravation of light and dark, beautiful to the eye, but photographically made to complicate the picture. The challenge was between me and him, shot after shot he seemed to fuel its mystery and its mercurial ambiguity under my eyes. A statue is photographed to bear witness of it, but in my case the photograph of a work is in itself an autonomous work.
As always, I printed the photos alone and I chose them for the Opera di Firenze with the idea that, by observing them closely, the audience could not see and feel a piece of bronze, but a moment of my life, and that special feeling that, for better or for worse, I was offered as a legacy from that masterpiece of Giambologna.