Florence's Uffizi gallery highlights plight of acid victims

·2-min read
Covered with white strips or hidden by veils, the women stand out against bare backgrounds in compositions reminiscent of the abstract mannequins of Italian artist Giorgio De Chirico (AFP/Handout)

Portraits of acid attack victims have gone on show at Italy's Uffizi art gallery alongside a sculpture by Baroque master Bernini of his lover whose face he disfigured out of jealousy.

The exhibition at the prestigious Florence museum aims to show the horror of violence against women -- starting with one of the world's greatest sculptors.

In 1638, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, mad with jealousy after discovering the beautiful Costanza Piccolomini Bonarelli was having an affair with his brother, commissioned one of his servants to disfigure her.

He was slapped with a mere fine, while Costanza was shut away for four months in a monastery.

"The idea of this exhibition is to make all visitors who come to the Uffizi in search of beauty aware of the fact that beauty without ethics is impossible," Uffizi director Eike Schmidt said in a media release video.

He said he hoped the contemporary exhibit would "change the system" and the mentality which "too easily finds excuses for people who have committed this kind of crime".

The portraits by Italian photographer Ilaria Sagaria show women with their heads entirely bandaged.

She told AFP she had collected testimonies from women who were victims of jealous husbands or partners and then staged images evoking their stories, using models.

These women with "non-faces", covered with white strips or hidden by veils, stand out against bare backgrounds in compositions reminiscent of the abstract mannequins of Italian artist Giorgio De Chirico.

"There were common points in all their stories, Sagaria said in a telephone interview.

"For example the fact that they were removing mirrors and photos from their walls, illustrating this need to get rid of everything that could remind them of what they used to be."

She interviewed both "women of the West", who were Italian, and "women of the East", such as Indian and Pakistani victims.

"I wanted to put the emphasis less on the physical ordeal than on the psychological aspect," she said, evoking their "feeling of isolation" and "loss of identity".

Italy passed a law in 2013 in a bid to stop attacks on women. There were some 105 femicides in the country between August 2020 and July 2021, according to the interior ministry.

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