By Costanza Beltrami

30: the number of “stones” in Alberto Magnelli’s first solo exhibition, Thirty Stones at the Pierre Loeb Gallery, Paris, 1934 

Born in Florence on July 1, 1888, Alberto Magnelli taught himself to paint by studying the great works of the Florentine Renaissance: Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Andrea del Castagno and Piero della Francesca. He was also in touch with leading contemporary movements and artists such as the Futurists in Italy and Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Fernand Léger, Picasso, Matisse, Juan Gris and Archipenko in Paris.

After settling in the vibrant French capital in 1931, Magnelli returned to Italy for a journey through the region of Carrara in Tuscany. This region is known for the quality of his white marble, first extracted in large quantities by the Romans in the 1st century BC. Later on, Carrara marble was notably favored by Michelangelo, who used it for his David and many other sculptures.

The surreal luminescence of marble blocks and the eerie geometry of the quarry slopes greatly impressed Magnelli, who started working on a series of paintings called Stones or Fragmented Stones. Between 1931 and 1934, Magnelli produced about sixty abstract paintings of this theme, thirty of which were included in his first major solo show, Thirty Stones, held in 1931 at the aptly-named Pierre Gallery in Paris. Visited by artists of such caliber as Vasili Kandinski, the exhibition was also celebrated in a short novel by Italo Calvino, one of the foremost writers and public intellectuals of twentieth century Italy.

«Perhaps in this world of stone there is neither a before nor an after: the time of the stones is concentrated in ourselves, where the eras are gathered. Not even the space that surrounds us knows the time, so we can remain suspended, letting the force of gravity attract out masses, which motionlessly face each other. But even we, with our dug, chipped and broken surface, carry a story. Traces of irrevocable events that have no place nor time».
­Italo Calvino, “Essere pietra (per Alberto Magnelli),” Romanzi e Racconti (Bologna: Einaudi, 1994).

Marble as a metaphor of timelessness — it may sound cliché, but contributing to the knowledge and protection of humanity’s artistic heritage enables each of us to attain the permanence of stone. In this spirit of support, please consider donating to IASto encourage the Society’s growth and longevity. Given IAS’ impending thirtieth anniversary, IAS is asking members to consider donations in permutations of 3 and/or 30.  Whether that means a donation of $3 or $300, be certain that any donation goes far in supporting IAS’s mission, programs, fellowships, charitable activities, and publications. 

In addition, it is a great time to join or renew your IAS membership(all current memberships expire on 31 December of this year). Please encourage non-members (colleagues, friends, aficionados) working on or appreciative of Italian art, architecture, and visual culture across all media, periods, and career paths to join the IAS.  

Reference: “MAGNELLI, Alberto.” Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford University Press,

Pierres, 10 août 1931, ink on paper, 1931. Galeria Marc Domènech, Barcelona. Photo: Galeria Marc Domènech.

Pierres no. 6 G, tempera on paper, 1933. Galeria Marc Domènech, Barcelona. Photo: Galeria Marc Domènech.

Pierres No. 21, 1933. Photo: Wikiarte.

Pierres no. 14, 1922. Musée d’Ixelles/Museum Van Elsene, Ixelles. Photo: Musée d’Ixelles/Museum Van Elsene.

The landscape near Carrara. Photo: William Domenichini at Wikimedia Commons.

Abandoned cave at Carrara. Photo: Zyance at Wikimedia Commons.

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