Victor Emmanuel III and the inauguration in 1911
Victor Emmanuel III, the grandson of Victor Emmanuel II, put significant pressure on the building works of the Vittoriano to speed things up, so that it could be inaugurated in 1911, for the fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy.
Victor Emmanuel III (1869 - 1947), who ascended to the throne in 1900, intended, among other things, to re-establish Italy’s international prestige, which had been significantly damaged by the poor performance of the colonial wars in Africa. The Vittoriano clearly reflected his ambitions. It was Victor Emmanuel III himself who set the date of the inauguration ceremony in 1911, as a key event in the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy.
Portrait of Victor Emmanuel III of Savoy, King of Italy (1900-1946)
Portrait of Victor Emmanuel III of Savoy painted around 1900-1910, now in the collection of the Castello Reale Museum of Racconigi, Italy
Sacconi died on 30 September 1905, leaving the Vittoriano still largely incomplete. The site first passed to his close collaborators, architect Pompeo Passerini (1858-1947) and sculptor Adolfo Cozza (1848-1910), who tried to give an organic form to his ideas.
However, the Artistic Directorship of the Monument was soon taken over by three architects, Gaetano Koch (1849-1910), Manfredo Manfredi (1859-1927) and Pio Piacentini (1846-1928). Once a further project was drawn up in 1907, the three would basically complete the work of Giuseppe Sacconi.
The architects Koch, Piacentini and Manfredi who were entrusted with the artistic direction of the Vittoriano after the death of Giuseppe Sacconi on 1905
Aerial view of the Vittoriano before the inauguration of 1911
The death of Giuseppe Sacconi in 1905 also marks the end of the unitary and coherent relationship between architecture and sculptural setting. Under the pressure of Victor Emanuel III, who intended to inaugurate the Monument in 1911 for the fiftieth anniversary of the Kingdom of Italy, the Royal Commission limited itself to summoning the best artists on the national scene, often characterised by a significant linguistic gap.
Portrait of the sculptor Leonardo Bistolfi
Portrait of the sculptor Augusto Rivalta in his studio
Between 1906 and 1908, the orders for the six monumental sculptural groups placed on the access stairway began, The Concord, The Strength, The Right, The Sacrifice, The Thought and The Action by Francesco Jerace, for the reliefs in the tympanums of the pronaos and for the fountains.
At the same time, competitions were announced for the series of the Attic Regions, for the quadrigae Paolo Bartolini and for the base equestrian statue of the King.
Portrait of the sculptor Giulio Monteverde‘Feminine Identity in the Sculpture of Monteverde', article in the illustrated monthly magazine La Donna no.304, 15 April 1918, at bottom left: the plaster model of Thought by Monteverde
‘Feminine Identity in the Sculpture of Monteverde', article in the illustrated monthly magazine La Donna no.304, 15 April 1918, at bottom left: the plaster model of Thought by Monteverde
Sculptor Ettore Ximenes in his studio
Bronze model of Law by Ettore Ximenes, designed for the sculptural group of the first balustrade of the Vittoriano
Portrait of sculptor Lodovico Pogliaghi, Lodovico Pogliaghi House Museum in Sacro Monte di Varese
Bronze model of Concord by Lodovico Pogliaghi, designed for the sculptural group of the first balustrade of the Vittoriano, Lodovico Pogliaghi House Museum
Preparatory plaster model of Lombardy by Emilio Bisi for the Regions of Italy sculptures in the frieze of the central portico, part of the collection of Palazzo Viani Dugnani in Verbania, Italy
Veneto by Paolo Bartolini for the Regions of Italy sculptures in the frieze of the central portico
Sardegna by Luigi Belli for the Regions of Italy sculptures in the frieze of the central portico
On 4th June 1911, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy, Victor Emanuel III inaugurated the Monument in front of a huge and applauding crowd. The ceremony was attended by Queen Elena, Queen Mother Margherita of Savoy, the Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti (1842-1928), the six thousand mayors of Italy, the veterans of the Risorgimento wars and three thousand students from Roman schools.
Inauguration of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II or the Vittoriano, 4 June 1911.
Front page of Il Messaggero dedicated to the grand opening of the Vittoriano
The more than twenty-five years between the laying of the first stone and the inauguration of the Vittoriano (1885-1911) coincide with a radical change in the national and international artistic concept. Historical avant-gardes such as Expressionism, Cubism and Futurism represent in this sense a real turning point. Precisely the Futurists, known for their polemical intransigence, branded the Vittoriano as “old-time”, that is, backward facing: the Florentine intellectual Giovanni Papini (1881-1856) defined it as a "white and enormous luxury urinal".
Pitfalls of War, one of the paintings symbolising Futurism, by Giacomo Balla, 1915, in the collection of GNAM (National Gallery of Modern Art), Rome
In 1913, writer and poet Giovanni Papini criticised the Vittoriano, calling it an ‘enormous, white, luxury urinal’
At the time of its inauguration, on 4th June 1911, several elements of the Monument had to be finished. Some sculptural groups, such as The Action by Francesco Jerace and The Right by Ettore Ximenes, were therefore replaced with models of the same size. Other elements were added only many years later: the installation of the bronze chariots (quadrigae) on the top of the Monument had to wait until 1927.
The Vittoriano in a photograph from the early 1920s: the two propylaea were still without the Quadriga by Bartolini and Fontana
The author's choice of the large sculptural frieze to decorate the Altar of the Fatherland fell to the public itself. The winner of this sort of artistic referendum was the Lombard Angelo Zanelli (1879-1942), who completed the work within fourteen years.
Sculptor Angelo Zanelli in his studio, working on a preparatory model, photographed by Mario Nunes Vais
Plaster model of the frieze with The Triumph of Patriotism or Patriotism which Fights and Wins by Angelo Zanelli for the Altar of the Fatherland
Temporary plaster sketch by Angelo Zanelli, from the Drawings of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II Archive