Italo Calvino and Franco Maria Ricci
October 15, 2023 - January 7, 2024
To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Italo Calvino, the Labirinto della Masone presents an exhibition celebrating the personal and professional relationship between the great writer and publisher Franco Maria Ricci.
The exhibition takes place in the central courtyard of the Labirinto in a library which now bears Calvino’s name. Covers of the books and magazines on which Calvino and Ricci collaborated will be exhibited alongside original manuscripts. Letters, videos, photographs, and other archival materials also help to tell the story of a friendship that lasted more than twenty years. As a prelude to the exhibition, one room is dedicated to Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus, also published by Ricci, which Calvino wrote about in the first issue of the magazine FMR.
In 1969, Franco Maria Ricci was the first to publish Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies, which was included in the exquisite volume Tarot: The Visconti Pack in Bergamo and New York. As Calvino himself wrote in the afterword of the Einaudi edition of his novel, published a few years later with the addition of the second part, The Tavern of Crossed Destinies, it was Ricci who convinced him to proceed with the publishing venture, which he had almost given up on. Ricci and Calvino’s collaboration continued from that moment on, characterized by a shared love of words and images, a thread that ran throughout both of their careers. Ricci published other texts by Calvino as well, many of them for the first time. Some of them appeared in the magazine FMR, such as the transcription of a lecture delivered by Calvino for an exhibition on Giorgio De Chirico at the Centre Pompidou, or the short story Sapore Sapere (The Taste of Knowledge), which would later be included in the posthumous collection Sotto il sole giaguaro (Under the Jaguar Sun).
Others were included both in the magazine and in a book, such as his text on Luigi Serafini’s fantastical encyclopaedia, the Codex Seraphinianus, or Il silenzio e le città (Silence and Cities), which was published together with paintings by 19th-century Florentine painter Fabio Borbottoni. Four marvellous pieces of melodious, ekphrastic prose accompanied large-scale paintings by Domenico Gnoli in a book dedicated to the painter that was part of the series “I segni dell’uomo” (The Signs of Man). The exhibition includes the original manuscripts of these last two texts signed by the author.
The relationship between Ricci and Calvino, between publisher and writer, was not only work-related, but also personal, full of mutual respect and affection: the many letters and photographs in the exhibition and Calvino’s beautiful Curriculum Vitae that Ricci requested as an appendix to the volume dedicated to tarot cards bear witness to this.