purple DOCUMENT purple FASHION Magazine : S/S 2013 issue 19

Gabriele d’Annunzio: decadent poet, best-selling novelist, journalist-agitator, infamously demanding lover (of the likes of Sarah Bernhardt and her Italian rival, Eleanora Duse), and First World War air hero. He claimed to embody Nietzsche’s übermensch — an artist, eccentric genius, and leader of men.

 

The art director of Purple, Gianni Oprandi, was given free access to photograph d’Annunzio’s villa on the shores of the Gardone Riviera. This house and its garden were his final masterpiece, where he surrounded himself with books, artworks, mementos from his lovers, and some of his political and existential statements.

 

photography by GIANNI OPRANDI

 

Francesco Frugoni, photographer’s assistant

 

 

A legend in his own time, Gabriele d’Annunzio constantly sought power and recognition. At the end of the First World War he tried to repatriate the town of Fiume, on the Croatian coast, a city-state that he ran briefly by dictatorial rule, popularizing the Roman salute, military parades, and balcony speeches that Mussolini would make famous. When the city was given back to Croatia, in 1921, he returned to his home on Lake Garda. In 1922 he mysteriously fell or was pushed from a window and afterward was given financial aid from Mussolini to enlarge his property — Il Vittoriale degli italiani (The Shrine of Italian Victories) — to keep him out of politics. Originally, the estate had been built for a German art historian, but it was confiscated by the Italian state, along with its contents, including Listz’s piano and a collection of rare books and artworks. D’Annunzio remained there — in splendor, attracting women from the world over and influencing both Futurism and Fascism (a movement he was actually against) — until his death in 1938. D’Annunzio expanded the estate; hauling up onto a hillside the torpedo-cruiser Puglia, which he used to patrol the Dalmatian coast; building a house for the airplane he flew in 1918 (having led a squadron of nine pilots 700 kilometers to drop propaganda leaflets on Vienna, the purpose of which was a call for the end of the Austro-Hungarian alliance with Prussia); and adding an amphitheater. D’Annunzio’s Vittoriale is now a mausoleum of decadent sensualist and self-inflating memorabilia, which also memorializes a historical moment when Italy was a world power for the first time since the Renaissance, 500 years earlier.