Isadora Duncan Show at Villa Bardini

Isadora Duncan show
“Joy,” a painting by Nomellini depicts Isadora Duncan performing on the beach at Viareggio


Villa Bardini, 10 am – 7 pm, €10. Stefano Bardini Museum, Monday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm.  Free admission on August 18 and 25 to the show and the garden; entrance €7, on other days.

Artwork of the dancer Isadora Duncan might capture the woman herself, but never her character, especially when she danced. The newest exhibition at Villa Bardini certainly tries to, though.

The first of its kind, this Isadora Duncan show features 175 pieces focusing on the relationship between the American dancer and Tuscany, Florence in particular. She performed in the city at least three times during her life but toured the country as a whole on several occasions. As a result, she became the muse for several foreign and Italian artists, such as Plinio Nomellini.

The exhibition’s key piece is “Joy,” a painting by Nomellini loaned by Silvio Berlusconi. The work is based on Duncan’s performance on the beach of Viareggio sometime before 1913 or 1914, which Nomellini was greatly inspired by. For unknown reasons, the painting was cut into two in 1935, but was later reunited. The larger piece is the left side, which is comprised wholly of an ocean scene, with silhouettes of seagulls and boats. On the right side, in its original frame, Duncan moves in costume, her costume billowing in the wind. The two pieces together take up a full wall. Its placement in the last room, which is full of other pieces by Nomellini, makes it the pièce de résistance of the display.

Another piece is a painting by Federico Zandomeneghi of a ballerina, to epitomize the prior style of purely classical dance and to contrast Duncan’s philosophy. Other featured artists include Raymond Duncan, Edward Gordon Craig, Auguste Rodin, Galileo Chini, Libero Andreotti, Thayaht (Ernesto Michahelles), Gino Severini, Gio Ponti, and Francesco Messina. Prospective visitors will be glad to know that the Isabella Duncan exhibition at both Villa Bardini and the Bardini Gardens are accessible to the public for free on Sunday, August 18 and August 25.

The Isadora Duncan show is spread through the top two floors of Villa Bardini in a series of hallways, interconnected rooms, and tucked-away corners. Without signs to guide the way it would be a bonafide labyrinth, complicated by part of the show being hosted in the Stefano Bardini Museum down the hill.

Isadora Duncan’s life was one of extremes. Born in San Francisco in 1877, Duncan experimented with various dance styles, primarily ballet, until she was 22 and moved to Europe. There, Duncan was a hit. Her groundbreaking style was heavily influenced by the Classical world, free and graceful, taken from archaeological sites and artifacts across the continent.

Duncan’s private life was tragic, however. When her two children died in a car accident in 1913, she turned to alcohol, and was known more for her drunken stunts than her dancing in the later years of her life. She later adopted six pupils in 1917, called the Isadorables, from her dancing school in Germany. Her only marriage was to Russian poet Sergev Esenin in 1922, but it was short lived as, after less than a year, Esenin committed suicide.

Duncan died in 1927 in a tragic motor accident in Nice, France. There have been several films, books, ballets, plays, songs, and poems written about or referencing her since her death. Today, she is considered no less than the Mother of Modern Dance. (katy sparks)