‘Paolina and Her Double’, Vettor Pisani at the Casa Romana, Spoleto

Paolina and Her Double is an installation of works by Vettor Pisani conceived by Piero Tomassoni for the Casa Romana in Spoleto, an original Roman domus with mosaic floors and frescoed walls, part of the city’s extensive museums network. The exhibition, opening on 29 June and on view until 15 September, is a response to the broad retrospective dedicated to Vettor Pisani by the neighbouring Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea in Foligno, a short drive from Spoleto, featuring 60 important works, also on view throughout the summer.

Vettor Pisani consistently explored the problem of truth in art and the grand themes of human existence that were deeply embedded in esoteric and philosophical traditions. His work is a complex interplay of myth, magic, and religious belief, challenging and expanding the boundaries of artistic expression. His illustrious career was marked by numerous accolades and international prestigious exhibitions. As the first recipient of the Pascali Prize from the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome in 1970, he went on to participate in multiple editions of the Venice Biennale and Documenta 5, showcasing his work in prominent museums worldwide. 

Vettor Pisani, Paolina Borghese looking in the mirror of her own desires, 2008

The Casa Romana in Spoleto is the ideal venue for a Pisani installation, as the architecture resonates with the artist’s long-standing exploration of ancient myths and traditions and reflects his recurring theme of the ‘house’ as a symbolic space and theatre of artistic and architectural operations. Well-known examples of this include the “Virginia Art Theatrum” a house-artwork in Serre di Rapolano, Tuscany, created in the 1990s (also known as the “Museum of Catastrophe”); the “Teatro di Cristallo” (1985), an imaginary dwelling with a cross-shaped floor plan on two levels and a central spiral staircase representing the connection between the underworld and paradise; as well as the artist’s extensive studies on the Wittgenstein House.

The works presented create a sort of double mirror within the domus’ space: Paolina Bonaparte with a fennel on her head, looking at herself (and away from the audience) in a mirror-like painting/sculpture (Paolina Borghese allo specchio dei propri desideri, 2008), seeing not her reflection but an androgynous torso; and another version of the same bust (Paolina Bonaparte, 2003) which, wearing the architecture of the “Museum of Catastrophe” as a curious wisdom headdress, looks towards the audience and at her ‘twin’ from another room in the domus.

Exhibition Information
Vettor Pisani. Paolina e il suo Doppio [Paolina and Her Double]
Curated by Piero Tomassoni
29 June – 9 September 2024
Casa Romana, Musei Civici di Spoleto, Umbria, Italy