The book is the result of long and very productive research in the store-rooms and archives of the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome, artworks and highly talented sculptors removed from the main galleries.
Thirty works studied for the first time as an organic whole to show how, during the 1930s, Etruscan and Roman art was regarded as a fundamental benchmark for deciding what shapes and materials to use to depict the present. The challenge faced by artists of the time was to show that they knew how to imbue their modern creations with the ancient spirit, by dipping into Ancient culture, knowledge, technical expertise and values, distancing themselves from the extenuated elegance of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, and going well beyond the Fascist regime’s exploitation of Roman culture for political ends and propaganda. Under the extraordinary dome of the Rotunda of Diocletian, a splendid example of the achievements of Roman architecture, and in the pages of the book, under the titles of Mythology, the Human Body and Portraits, fifteen statues of athletes, heroes and gods of Classical Antiquity find themselves conversing with modern marbles, bronzes and terracottas, all inspired by Ancient art, even down to the techniques employed. The introduction to the book throws light on the new anthropocentric vision which became widespread in the 1930s, when the essence of mankind was rediscovered in its best facets, such as work and thinking, indeed, looking back for inspiration to Antiquity. The volume is enhanced by a marvelous collection of extraordinary photographs of the period, some of them published here for the first time, interspersed with captivating modern shots of the sculptures on display, for comparison with the older ones, taken against the background of the brick walls of the vast hall of the Roman Baths of Diocletian.