by Nicole Martinelli? posted: Wed. Dec. 14 15:23 pm
All of us have probably destroyed a photo highlighting a triple chin or lopsided smile, but things are a bit different when you’re the symbol of a political regime.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was ruthless when it came to discarding photos that showed him in, well, a less than a flattering light.
The trouble is that thousands of these snaps, with Il Duce’s cursive ‘no’ scrawled on them, made it into the hands of Italian historians who have put together a book of the rejects.
“Il Duce Proibito” (Forbidden Duce) serves up 140 pages of nixed photographs taken over a 15-year period.
What exactly did he want to keep people from seeing?
Topping the discards, all personally screened by Mussolini, were photographs portraying the normally lantern-jawed authority figure as jovial, informal or just plain awkward.
Take the one where Mussolini, in a slightly lumpy suit topped with a jaunty cap, gives an enthusiastic handshake to a uniformed and plume-hatted King Victor Emmanuel III.
The photo got the red light because Mussolini, in addition to the casual attire, standing in front of the royal car, might have been all too easily mistaken for the chauffeur. Other candid cast-offs immortalize him in tennis shorts and an overcoat, presiding over an empty piazza and making an ungraceful exit from an airplane in a puffy white aviator suit.
The forbidden Duce comes to light at a time when Mussolini is likely on spin cycle in his tomb in the northern Italian town of Predappio. Gianfranco Fini, leader of the neo-fascist National Alliance party, criticized the fascist regime during a recent trip to Israel. In the ensuing clamor granddaughter and senator, Alessandra Mussolini, left the party to form a new one amid speculation that her political clout has run dry.
Authors Mimmo Franzinelli and Emanuele Valerio Marin found over 2,000 ‘forbidden’ photos forgotten in the archives of Istituto Luce, which served as a propaganda arm for the fascist government.
The increasing number of photos rejected as the years went on make for a fascinating study in impression management. Mussolini became more and more fearful of his public image, prohibiting publication of photos where he was placed near priests or nuns, whom he was convinced brought him bad luck, and those where people around him appeared not to be paying ‘enough’ attention to his presence. ?1999-2003 zoomata.com
Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.