Giuseppe Scalarini

Roma, Italy

29.01.1873 - 30.12.1948

Cartoonist, Illustrator

He was born in Mantua on January 29, 1873, the first child, with his twin Primo, of Virginia Lonardi (b.1845 ) and Rainero Scalarini ( 1840 – 1898 ), a railway employee who had fought in the Risorgimento campaigns from 1859 to 1866 . Then followed the sisters Francesca and Dina, and the brother Enrico. After completing his technical studies in 1888 , in 1890 he sent some drawings to an exhibition that received a favorable review by the Province of Mantua . On that occasion he met Ivanoe Bonomi, to which he will remain a friend for the rest of his life, despite subsequent political dissensions. With him and a few others he founded an ephemeral literary society that year.

In 1891 he found a job at the Directorate of Railways in Florence , a city that fostered his passion for art. The center of culture and modern art was then Paris and Scalarini, on February 17, 1892 , left for the French capital and stayed there for a month and a half. Back in Italy, he managed to work as a draftsman in the Cecchini company in Borgo San Lorenzo . His aspiration was to devote himself to journalism and satirical drawing, encouraged by his socialist political convictions, communicated to his friend Bonomi and shared by them.

Returning to Mantua in 1894 , he made a second, short trip to Paris, after which he was hired at the Mantua Land Registry Office. Called to carry out military service in Venice , he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts , and at the end of his military stop, in January 1896 , he was employed in the land registry of Udine . In the meantime, he continued to propose cartoons and caricatures to various newspapers: they published The Review of Rome , the Illustrated Scene of Florence and also the Fliegende Blätter of Munich .

He remained in Udine for only four months. Once back in Mantua, he founded the illustrated weekly Merlin Cocai , whose first issue came out on November 1, 1896 . Directed by Dante Bianchi, it had only four pages, of which the internal two were filled with Scalarini’s cartoons, and was inspired by radical and socialist ideas. At the bottom of his drawings, Scalarini’s characteristic signature appears: a scale followed by the final two syllables of his surname. In March 1897 , in the ballot of the constituencies of Mantua and its province, the newspaper sided against the candidates of the “criminal party” of the “brigante Crispi “, who were not elected.

He continued to draw for Merlin Cocai even when he moved to Bologna to work in Wenk lithography. In Bologna he found Bonomi and two friends from Venice, with whom he designed a newspaper that combined culture and humor. Nothing came of it, but on 1 May 1898 , with Bonomi and Giovanni Zibordi ( 1870 – 1943 ), he founded La Terra , the first openly socialist newspaper published in Mantua. It was the year in which a wave of protests swept the peninsula against the economic policies of the governments that penalized the popular classes and which reached its peak with the uprising in Milan , repressed with cannon fire by the generalBeccaris burr . The arrests and trials held by military courts followed, which mainly affected the socialist militants. Almost the entire Roman editorial office of Avanti! she was arrested and Filippo Turati was sentenced to twelve years in prison. Scalarini also ended up on trial in June for his cartoons. Merlin Cocai was suppressed and Scalarini, convicted, escaped arrest by fleeing to Austria.

In Windischgraz he found a job and a commission from the Larousse publishing house . He also sent his drawings to the Bolognese magazine Italia laughs . In August 1900 he moved to Berlin , where he worked for the Lustige Blätter and the Fliegende Blätter . Expelled from Germany on February 17, 1901 at the request of the Italian government, he fled first to London and then to Belgium . From Brussels he was again expelled in March and went to Luxembourg and then to Metz . Here he learned of the amnestyintervened in Italy and returned to Mantua. In May 1902 , to work in the Brunetti Company, she moved to Istria , to Grožnjan , where she met Carolina Pozzi, who became her life partner. Scalarini did not believe in marriage – he will marry her only in 1943 , to fulfill the wish expressed on the verge of death by Carolina – but asked Mr. Pozzi, on June 5, 1902 , for permission to live with her daughter. From their union five daughters will be born: Virginia, Francesca, Rainera, Claudia and Giuseppina.

Back in Mantua again in August 1903 , he republished the Merlin Cocai from 20 September . In 1908 he worked with the Ticino Railways and resumed his collaboration with the Lustige Blätter and Fliegende Blätter families , as well as starting one with Il Pasquino di Torino . It was in 1911 that her career and his fame took a turn. The Socialist Party refinanced the Avanti! , transferring its headquarters from Rome to Milan and entrusting its management to Claudio Treves. Scalarini introduced himself to the editor-in-chief Nino Mazzoni, his old friend, proposing his drawings: on October 22 the first cartoon appeared in the socialist newspaper, a custom that lasted until January 10, 1926 , a few months before the newspaper was suppressed by the fascist regime.

The Libyan War:

1911 was the year of the Libyan war and the Socialist Party, in its majority, took a stance clearly opposed to the enterprise. The Avanti! he was at the forefront of the anti-colonialist battle and Scalarini’s cartoons struck the symbolic characters of that war. He left some notes that outline the characteristic features of the “Libyan gang”, of which “the capitalist, the military, the supplier, the nationalist, the war socialist (reformist), the lady of the Red Cross, the student , the war priest ».

In his cartoons the capitalist, who is “the leader of the gang”, has a big belly, from under his jacket hang picks and rosaries, his claw fingers loaded with rings tighten “the nest egg” and on his safe “we sometimes read : Homeland ».

The soldier, with a goggle and a whip, has an upturned mustache, a tight uniform, full of ribbons and badges, “including a gallows”, and a hanged Arab hangs from the handle of his saber. Even the nationalist has a monocle, with a tailcoat and a daisy in his buttonhole. He is wearing a wooden broadsword and has broken shoes. Sometimes he “dresses as a clown”.

The war priest, “born from the crossing of a priest with a corporal”, wears a black military uniform with a beret fitted with bersagliere feathers. His rifle has a lighted candle stuck in the barrel. The saber has a cross-shaped hilt, on which Tripoli laudamus is engraved . Sometimes he “has the money from the Banco di Roma hanging from the crucifix.”

The socialist who supports the war, the “social tripolist”, wears the colonial uniform with a helmet decorated with red carnations and a “saber with Marx’s motto on it.” He is mutilated in the left arm. Sometimes he wears the suit of a courtier, with a sword. The “student” wears shorts and carries “bottle, syllabary, balloon and flag”.

At the same time, Eugenio Guarino, the war correspondent of the Avanti! , denounced the diplomatic and military unpreparedness of the colonial enterprise, the “shady commercial and banking interests”, the reprisals against the Libyan population and summary executions.

Scalarini’s drawings on the Libyan war were collected at the end of 1912 in the volume La Guerra nella caricatura . With the XIII Socialist Congress, held in Reggio Emilia in July, the majority of the Party’s political leadership passed to the revolutionary current, while the reformist current paid for support to the Giolitti government , which had wanted war, with the expulsion of Bissolati , Bonomi and Cabrini . Mussolini became the new director of the Avanti! . On January 6, 1913 , in Roccagorga, the troop shot and dispersed a demonstration of peasants. Seven demonstrators were killed, including two women and a child, and forty others were injured. The newspaper commented on the massacre with a violent article by Mussolini, The assassination of the state and Scalarini dedicated several cartoons to it. In one of them, a dog that licked the blood shed by the military received a medal of valor from the authorities, in another, “a Turk brought civilization to Roccagorga: water, tents, soap, medicines, roads”.

Denounced, together with Mussolini and three other journalists of the Avanti! , out of “contempt of the armed forces”, Scalarini wrote an open letter to the president of the court, saying he did not understand why they called him to the Court of Assizes: “Maybe for Libya? Maybe for military supplies? Maybe for the forks? Perhaps for the massacres? ». It was “the patriots, not us” – he wrote – “who stabbed children with bayonets […] to hang the Arabs who had defended their country […] to fill the oxen with water for supplies because they weighed more, and to make shoes with cardboard soles; it was they who stole from ministries, from banks, everywhere ». At the trial, held in March 1914 , they were all acquitted.

The Great War and Fascism:

When World War I began , Mussolini wrote in the Avanti! the article Down with the war! . It was July 26, 1914 and already on November 15 the interventionist newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia was published, directed by the former director of the socialist newspaper. On 24 November Mussolini was expelled from the Socialist Party and Scalarini prepared the cartoon Judas , with a Mussolini, armed with a dagger and with the money of the betrayal, who silently approaches to strike Christ (socialism) from behind.

In 1915 Italy also entered the war and the Socialist Party chose the line of neutrality in the motto Neither join nor sabotage . Scalarini denounced the horrors of conflict, militarism and nationalism, the illicit enrichments of suppliers, the clergy blessing weapons, the lies of the press and the censorship of the government, the betrayal of those socialists who wanted and defended the war. Above all, the kings who “committed the crime”, and “the principal instigator, capitalism”.

When the war was over, the cartoon The Victory Cart , published on 1 August 1919 , summarized the results of the past four years. The Italy of victory is sitting in an invalid’s wheelchair, she is blind and deaf, she has artificial legs and arms. In her lap she has a wreath of flowers for the 507,193 dead, and her wings are made up of bundles of crutches, among which the other figures of the “victory” are inserted: 984,000 wounded, 120,000 disabled, 74,620 mutilated, 26,000 consumptive, 23,000 blind , 3,260 mute, 6,740 deaf, 4,060 insane, 19,600 neuropathic.

The post-war period saw the birth of fascism: “After the industrial doctor and the agrarian midwife gave him an injection of the spirit of violence, which is a derivative of the patriotic spirit, the newborn let out the first cry:” Death to socialism ” »And he went – writes Scalarini -« with the fuse and a bottle of petrol towards the socialist newspaper, and set it on fire ». Fascism had many fathers – the suppliers of war, the generals Bava Beccaris and Graziani “the shooter”, the agrarians – and war as a mother. His drawing of her The Child of War , dated December 24, 1920 , illustrates this concept.

The Fascists set fire to and destroyed the Milanese headquarters of the Avanti! on April 15, 1919 . Two years later, on October 28, 1921 , it was the turn of the new headquarters in via Settala. Amid much difficulty, the newspaper continued to come out. In 1923 , while he was on vacation in Gavirate , Scalarini was also attacked by a fascist squadron: he was given the typical punishment of castor oil and was forced to leave the country. After the attack, Scalarini took refuge in Savona , and a few days later the fascists fired at the windows of the house in Gavirate, where the family remained. Some time later, Scalarini and his family settled inTravedona , near Varese: here too the fascists organized an expedition and Scalarini managed to escape by fleeing into the surrounding woods.

With the Mussolini dictatorship, the opposition newspapers, after a long period of continuous kidnappings, had to stop publishing. The Avanti! it was suppressed on October 31, 1926 . The next day a group of fascists showed up in the Milanese house of Scalarini, in via Cadore 35, broke down the door and attacked him savagely. Taken to the hospital, he was found to have a concussion and a fractured jaw , which remained deformed. He was discharged after almost a month of hospitalization and three days later, on 1 December, he was arrested.

Sentenced to five years of confinement , from the prison of San Vittore , on 10 December, he began a long and slow journey: on 21 December he was in Lampedusa , then he was transferred to Ustica . Scalarini will then recount this period of his life in the book My Islands . Among the fellow prisoners were the Rosselli brothers , Guido Picelli , Bentivogli , who was killed by the fascists in 1945 in Bologna , Bordiga , Berti , Maffi , Massarenti ,Parri , Romita , Terracini : “Berti taught history, Finetti and Leuritti French, Bordiga mathematics, Munich computisteria, Pinazza shorthand, Ciccotti chemistry, Sdrebnich the German, Romita the history of art, Sorgani held elementary courses for the illiterate ».

He was condoned for two years and left Ustica on 7 November 1929 . He remained on probation and with the absolute prohibition of publication of any work of any kind. Thus it was that a children’s book written and illustrated by Scalarini, The Adventures of Miglio , was published by the Vallardi publisher in 1933 under the name of his daughter Virginia Scalarini Chiabov. Written at that time, but still unpublished, is Matusalino , the story of an upside-down life: the protagonist is born old and over the years he returns to his swaddling clothes.

A month after the start of the last adventure of fascism, on 15 July 1940 , the sixty-seven year old Scalarini was again arrested in Gavirate to be sent to confinement in Istonio , in the province of Chieti . Here he found himself with many old anti-fascists, some of whom he was already friends of Ustica, and about thirty Slovenes. On 19 October he collapsed and was confined to the nearby town of Bucchianico , where a dozen foreigners were interned. Released on 23 December 1940, he was able to return to his family in Milan, subjected to special surveillance.

The last few years:

In 1943 he managed by chance to escape arrest by the police of the Republic of Salò . He was struck by two serious deaths: in 1943 his wife Carolina died and on March 19, 1945 Giuseppina, his youngest daughter. He thought of dedicating a choice of his drawings of him to them, a project that he could not carry out. He received in 1945 , through Carlo Silvestri , a greeting from his persecutor, Mussolini. Scalarini then commented on this strange greeting: “The flame of hatred had gone out, even before it went out in Piazzale Loreto.”

After the war and fascism fell, Scalarini resumed working for the Avanti! , but no longer with the diligence of the past. He had grown even more silent and lonely, with the constant thought of his missing daughter. Of this last period remains one of his drawings – icons created after the Referendum of 2 June 1946 which, published in Codino rosso n. 19 in 1946  we find it, thirty years later, on the back cover of the History of satire by Enrico Gianeri and Andrea Rauch: this is the highly stylized design of a long staircase at the top of which you can glimpse a detail, made up of the legs of a throne and boots, of a king. Under the caption it reads: “After June 2nd – No more dwarfs at the top”. He died on the morning of December 30, 1948 . His last words were: “I’m tired, I’m very tired.” He rests in Milan, at Campo K of the Lambrate Cemetery , in tomb 9-9A.

The work:

Several thousand drawings remain by Giuseppe Scalarini, of which not many were however collected and ordered in volume. He was not only a political and satirical designer, but also an illustrator of children’s books. A collection of his drawings is housed in the Kremlin , at the Museum of the Revolution.

In 1980 the book The Adventures of Miglio was published in the Bompiani paperbacks, for the first time in the name of its author Giuseppe Scalarini.

In 2002 , curated by Antonio Mele ‘Melanton’ , at Palazzo Sangallo in Tolentino, the first major anthological exhibition dedicated to Scalarini was set up, with numerous original works provided by the heirs, and with a special illustrated catalog, also edited by Melanton , which it included a complete and exciting biography of the Mantuan artist.


Reference: Wikipedia, 2022

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