By Adriana Baranello

Futurist artist and author Benedetta was born on 14 August 1897. Born Benedetta Cappa, she was a central figure in the Futurist Movement’s later politics and aesthetics, and perhaps the most important woman Futurist of the 1920s and 1930s. Her career began in Rome, in the studio of Giacomo Balla. Benedetta was one of Balla’s many students that became influential members of the Futurist community. In 1918 Balla introduced her to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, founder of the Futurist Movement, whom she would marry in 1926 (not 1923 as is commonly believed), and with whom she would have three children. Bendetta and Marinetti were close collaborators as well as spouses, and many developments in later Futurism were due to the significant influence she had on her husband. She was a devout Waldensian Christian, and possibly the more committed Fascist of the two, given Marinetti’s conflicted relationship with the regime. After Marinetti’s death in 1944 it was Benedetta who carried the torch of Futurism, and became the movement’s biggest advocate until her death in 1977.

Benedetta’s worked most frequently in the visually stunning Aeropainting style, which took the Futurist passion for technology and their interest in dynamic movement and shifted it up from the the earthbound automobile or train (two of Futurism’s favorite motifs) into the cockpit of an airplane. Bendetta’s personal style and color use are highly expressive, and decorative. In her work, she sought to stimulate the conscious mind and the bodily senses, to bring them into harmony with the new reality of the industrial age.

Benedetta is also the source of another significant development in Futurism in this period: the development of Tactilism. The Manifesto del Tattilismo was published on 11 January 1921 and was signed by Marinetti and Benedetta. Tactilism was an early foray into art that was based on tactile sensation; it described an art that was meant to be touched, to be experienced bodily. She was also one of the several cosignatories of the Manifesto dell’Aeropittura, published in 1929.

Besides her work as a painter, and her involvement with manifesto writing, Benedetta was also a skilled author. She published three novels: Le forze umane: romanzo astratto con sintesi grafiche (1924), Viaggio di Gararà: romanzo cosmico per teatro (1931), and Astra e il sottomarino: vita trasognata (1935). Benedetta’s paintings and novels are some of the best examples of Futurism’s potential to give women an equal place amongst their male peers, and the adaptability of the movement’s aesthetics and ideology for the expression of the female voice.

Testament to Benedetta’s skill and importance and to the ongoing work to bring the woman’s voice in Futurism into its deserved focus, her work was accorded significant attention in the groundbreaking 2014 Guggenheim retrospective, Reconstructing the Universe: Futurism 1909-1944. Indeed, her work crowned the exhibit. The final room at the top of the Guggenheim’s vortex was hung with her five monumental paintings Sintesi delle comunicazioni aeree (Synthesis of Aerial Communications, 1933-34), a work which was commissioned for the new Palermo post office. The series of paintings depicts various modes of communication (such as telegraph and radio), and modes of transportation (such as ocean liners, trains and airplanes).

Sintesi delle comunicazioni aeree, 1933-34, oil on canvas. In situ, upper conference room of the Palazzo delle Poste e Telegrafi, Palermo.

Sintesi delle comunicazioni aeree on exhibit at the Guggenheim, New York.

Velocità di motoscafo (Speed of a Motorboat), 1924, oil on canvas.

Benedetta with F.T. Marinetti and their daughters Vittoria, Ala, and Luce, c. 1940

Lo spirito e L’arte, 1930, gouache on paper. Private collection.

Ironia,  c.1930, gouache on paper. Private collection.

Portrait of Benedetta, Giacomo Balla, oil on canvas, 1924. Private collection.

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