From “Il giornale dell’arte”
DATE: October 2021
EVENT: “Seeing in Rome”, supplement to “Il giornale dell’arte” no. 421 – The Countess embroidered while dreaming of eternity. 40 creations by Herta Ottolenghi Wedekind
In Italy between the two wars, women like Edita Broglio and Cesarina Gualino were cultural driving forces and talented artists, especially the former. The Berlin countess Herta von Wedekind zu Horst (1885-1953) also devoted herself to sculpture and textiles and together with her husband Arturo Ottolenghi gave life to the ‘dream of eternity’ in the vast Piedmontese estate of Monterosso (Acqui Terme). Her atelier was built there and artists such as Arturo Martini, Ferruccio Ferrazzi and the architect Piacentini were involved to create an ideal Edenic and vital world, one of the most important private commissions of the period. Telling the story of the multifaceted personality of Herta Ottolenghi Wedekind, who outside of certain strategies of her male colleagues expressed herself with perilous freedom and cultured modernity, is an alliance between Gianluca Berardi from Rome and Giulia and Diego Gomiero from Milan (who presented a preview at miart last September). From 7 October to 5 November, Berardi is exhibiting forty textile creations in his gallery. Her family of origin and her husband’s Semitic family have a very high cultural and social tradition, which led to philanthropy and the conquest of a personal language. Herta Ottolenghi Wedekind studied in Rome with the German Hans Stoltenberg-Lerche, who was skilled and refined in the use of colour, especially in Art Nouveau glass. After her debut as a sculptor, in 1922 she patented a system for creating abstract designs in fabrics, exploiting the symmetrical duplication of random ink tracings, a procedure similar to the contemporary “Rorschach test” of psychodiagnostics. These hand-woven and hand-embroidered items became tapestries, carpets, cushions, screens and furnishing fabrics, and triumphed in major exhibitions, starting with the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris (1925) and in solo shows. They were acquired by important Italian and foreign collections and by museums such as the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
On display at Berardi’s are pieces characterised by the bold choice of raw canvas supports (not the usual aristocratic linens), where inventiveness and aesthetic sensitivity bend the technique to the creation of vibrant, textured surfaces, often balanced by neutral areas with the value of emptiness. Finally, note the fearless use of colour, for example in a large embroidery marked by a pattern of deep turquoise spots and in a tapestry characterised by a vertical and symmetrical mirroring of yellow and deep pink spots, anticipating the effects of informal Tachisme.
Francesca Romana Morelli