Follow us on
Search Search in the site

Bona de Mandiargues. Remaking the world

Bona de Mandiargues. Remaking the world

Bona de Mandiargues. Remaking the world

Inaugurated on September 16, at the Nivola Museum, the first major retrospective of the surrealist artist Bona de Mandiargues (Rome 1926 - Paris 2000).

An artist and writer, her unique story - never before reconstructed - makes her, together with figures such as Leonora Carrington, Meret Oppenheim, Dorothea Tanning, Dora Maar or Remedios Varo, one of the protagonists of the panorama of a “feminine” surrealism, today finally at the center of the attention of critics and the public.

His work stems from a self-research that finds in the themes of metamorphosis, animal totemism and fantasy the means to express a divided and fragmented identity.

My research is alchemical - said the artist - I want to make gold from excrement. (...) I remake the world: there I am elsewhere, I see things from farther away.

A fascinating woman, much admired and a generator of overwhelming passions, Bona explicitly rejects the roles of woman-muse and woman-child, prevalent in the field of Surrealism. Instead, at least starting in the seventies, he identified himself with the snail, a hermaphrodite animal and ambivalent figure, at the same time friendly (think of Pinocchio's blue fairy) and repulsive, the incarnation of the shapeless surrealist. For the artist, the snail is a symbol of androgynism, of fragility and strength, and of the continuous raging of his restless mind.

The itinerary of the exhibition

The project, promoted by the Sardinia Foundation through the AR/S Shared Art program, is based on extensive archival research and reconstructs the itinerary of Bona de Mandiargues through 7.1 works between 1950 and 1997, coming from the collection of the artist's heirs and from private and public collections, including the Intesa San Paolo Foundation, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and the Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art in Ferrara.

The journey, opened by a group of precious paintings that mark the artist's approach to the surrealist imagination, continues with the fantastic fiery landscapes of 1955-56, influenced by a journey to Upper Egypt, and abstract works from thick and material pastes from the second half of the fifties to the early sixties, when the suggestion of Mexican culture adds new elements to his imagination.

Vague à l'âme is the painting that inaugurated the series of textile collages in 1958, in which technical experimentation and formal research are the vehicles of an introspective investigation that brings to light traumas and impulses from the depths. The Sexual Lesson (1962), the impressive Triptych of Births, (1965), with primitive tones, and Diana the Hunted and Hunted (1968) are among the key

paintings of this phase.

An imaginary full of symbolic references and a palette with psychedelic colors characterize a group of canvases painted around 1968, linked to the second trip to Mexico.

If the memory of metaphysical painting re-emerges in the seventies, with homages to De Chirico, Savinio and Magritte (Il Gallo Toledo, Celeste Empire, 1975), in the following decade the Italian climate of the “return to painting” remains no stranger to canvases such as the portrait of the erotic actress and gallerist Sylvia Bourdon (1980) and The Song of Creation (1980).

The artist's maturity sees the development of the lines of research already started, while the presence of the symbolic image of the snail, the artist's projection, and that of the theme of the portrait (Homage to Unica Zürn, 1980) and the self-portrait intensified.

The latter, central to the artist's research, knows several important examples in the exhibition, from the small and graceful youthful self-portrait to the flamboyant one of 1968 to the hieratic and stylized face of Bona à Mexico (1991), up to that of 1994, which shows Bona's face multiplied and broken down into details (nose, mouth, etc.), a mirror of the continuous tension, in the artist's work, between the fragmentation of the subject and its affirmation, which finds an echo in the powerful self-representations symbolic of La Femme Montagne and Ma Main (1991)


The artist

Niece and pupil of Filippo de Pisis, Bona Tibertelli studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, before following her uncle to Paris in 1947. Here she met the critic and writer André Pieyre de Mandiargues, who brought her into contact with surrealist intellectuals and artists, from André Breton to Max Ernst, from Dorothea Tanning to Meret Oppenheim, from Man Ray to Hans Bellmer, from Leonor Fini to Henri Michaux. In 1950 she married de Mandiargues. The relationship with de Mandiargues will help to direct Bona's artistic interests towards the themes of magic, dreamlike, eros and the occult


After a formative phase stylistically influenced by the example of de Pisis, Bona (the name with which she signed) arrived at a figurative painting nourished by fantastic suggestions, which interprets nature based on the surrealist research of the wonderful and the disturbing.

Roots and mandragore with an anthropomorphic appearance are the symbols of a constantly changing reality that in the second half of the fifties passed through the evocation of a magmatic and fermenting universe, rendered through material fabrics, with the use of dense mixtures of earth and dust, which look as much at contemporary surrealist research as at those of the informal European.

In 1958, Bona developed the technique that most characterized it in the following years, that of the assembly of textile materials. From old clothes in her husband's wardrobe, she retrieves linings and padding (the soul, in French). Shreds of fabric that will start countless compositions sewn and mounted on canvas, which she calls' collages', 'assemblages', or 'ragarts'. At the same time, the artist will continue to practice painting, drawing and engraving, with works full of personal symbologies, erotic fantasies, magical and alchemical


In 1958 he stayed for a long time in Mexico, opening a new artistic and personal phase. The sixties were a period of existential restlessness for her, marked by her separation from her husband, by numerous trips - in particular to India, Afghanistan, Ceylon and Nepal and again to Mexico - and by relations with the poet Octavio Paz and with the painter Francisco Toledo. His work is enriched with references to the cultures with which he comes into contact both in the chromatic ranges and in the style, and in the subjects and symbols.

1967 marks the reconciliation with de Mandiargues and the birth of his daughter Sibylle. From this moment on, Bona is moving towards new research directions. On the one hand, painting resumes, with a series of neo-metaphysical paintings that look at the origins of Surrealism. On the other hand, he develops the work on the assemblage, now focusing on his totemic animal, the snail. He also intensified his graphic production, with erotic drawings inspired by tantric art. The nineties saw the theme of the portrait in the foreground, both with a series of homages to historical protagonists of the culture of the twentieth century, and with an exploration of the self through the self-portrait and the family portrait.

Curated by: Giuliana Altea, Antonella Camarda, Luca Cheri, Caterina Ghisu.



26/1/2024 - 09:53

Where is it


Write a comment


Other events on this day

View All View All
"Il tempo delle Maschere" - Museo MURATS

3 Feb 2024 - 3 Mar 2024

“The Time of Masks” - MURATS Museum
On the occasion of the event "A Maimone 2024. On Carrasegare antigu Samughesu”, the Single Regional Museum of Sardinian Textile Art - MURATS - and the Municipality of Samugheo in collabo...
Read everything Read everything
Cesare Perra: "la camera delle meraviglie" al MUA di Sinnai

27 Jan 2024 - 17 Mar 2024

Cesare Perra: 'the chamber of wonders' at MUA in Sinnai
A new exhibition for the Perra collection: Saturday, January 27 at 18:00 an exhibition will be inaugurated in which the works of the so-called Perra collection will be set up. The artistic colle...
Read everything Read everything
Mandas, Su Fogaroni 2024

16 Jan 2024 - 20 Jan 2024

Su Fogadoni, an ancient and religious rite in Mandas
Dates: Tuesday, January 16 - Su Fogadoni (Sant'Antonio Abate) Saturday, January 20 - San Sebastiano Mandas - square in front of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate, reservation...
Read everything Read everything