14 November 2009

The Defiant Dandy: D'Annunzio Style

The Randy Dandy
New York Times
Man's Fashion Fall 2009
13 September, 2009
by Grazia D'Annunzio

Gabriele D’Annunzio was no ordinary fop. The father of Italian decadence was also a man of action — and quite a stud.

He was a patriot and a poet, a dandy and a war hero. In turn-of-the-century Italy, no one embodied the cult of beauty and the love of action like Gabriele d’Annunzio. He was the incarnation of the Nietzschean Übermensch: narcissistic, powerful and seemingly invincible. Soldiers applauded his epic adventures; literati exalted his vast output; women couldn’t resist his voracious sexual appetite.
But let’s admit it: d’Annunzio was not a handsome man. He was quite short, prematurely bald and pale as a vampire, and had a face punctuated by a goatee and upturned mustache. But he had a wild elegance and a perverse sex appeal. Rumors regarding his personal extravagances were rampant — including the infamous (and untrue) one that he had a rib removed in order to pleasure himself orally. It’s easy to see why people’s imaginations went wild: after all, he did wear shoes shaped like phalluses; had a robe outfitted with a hole for his penis; enjoyed nude horseback riding; and photographed himself naked, assuming poses reminiscent of Baron von Gloeden.
With the onset of World War I, d’Annunzio set aside his velvet robes and handmade shoes for an Italian uniform. "Il Comandante" inflamed the nation with ebullient speeches, favoring Italy’s entry to the war alongside the Allies. He distinguished himself in risky plane raids, lost an eye during an aerial accident and took the city of Fiume (now Rijeka in Croatia). When Mussolini marched into Rome in 1922, he used d’Annunzio’s popularity and political ideas to further his own goals, going so far as to make him a prince; but the so-called "poet-soldier" lay low during the fascist years and later opposed Italy’s alliance with Hitler. He lived a secluded life in the Vittoriale degli Italiani, the extravagant villa on Lake Garda that later became a museum, surrounded by Turkish carpets, Persian tiles, the airplane he used to pilot and Grecian statues that he dressed up with lapis necklaces and other jewelry.


© 2009 The New York Times Company


initials CG said...

If you can read Italian, D'Annunzio's letters to Mussolini are quite interesting...

Tony said...

"Memento Semper Audere": Words to live by..