The MAN Museum of Nuoro hosts, from next March 3, an unpublished and important dedicated exhibition to the history and myth of the Odessa staircaserenamed by popular culture the “Potemkin Staircase” following the fortune of the famous film by Sergej Michajlovič Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin of 1925.
The original project of the staircase, a monumental link between the sea and the city, was signed, in the 1830s, by the architect Francesco Carlo Boffo (1796-1867) whose biography has remained shrouded in mystery for decades, poised between an oral tradition that linked him to Sardinia and new documentary pieces that the exhibition today reveals along the way, thanks to recent archival discoveries.
Francesco Carlo Boffo is a figure of great interest, both for the architectural experimentation of themes related to urban space, and for his role as interpreter of Italian architectural culture, already very lively between Russia and Ukraine since the reconstruction of the Moscow Kremlin in the Renaissance, and which has given the multicultural Odessa that unmistakable classic face also betrayed by the choice of a Greek name for the city.
Boffo is therefore presented as the main author of many public spaces, of representative architectures and of the same stairway symbol of the place, which connects the esplanade of the port to the Piazza de Richelieu, along an ideal axis that the exhibition will return through the exhibition Of drawings provided exceptionally by the Odessa Archive, original floor plans on loan from prestigious Italian institutes, including the National Central Library of Florence and the Historical Archive of Turin, as well as the reconstruction of drawings and a scale model made thanks to the collaboration with the Agrigento Territorial University Pole of the University of Palermo.
The MAN will delve into the work of the architect for the first time, emphasizing the contribution offered in the construction of the architectural and urban identity of Odessa, together with the fascinating human and artistic story suspended between the legend of his birthplace on the island and the real Ticino origins, fertile ground for many architects who later grew up in Italy and in its centers of academic culture, strongly linked to the discipline of design.
But the story of Boffo and “his” staircase could not fail to intertwine that of a film that made this panorama universally known in the eyes of the 20th century public, transforming a masterpiece of 19th century architecture in an icon of the big screen, thanks to the tight, violent and dramatic editing of Ėjzenštejn’s famous sequence, carved in the common imagination. In the catalog text by the film critic Roberto Nepoti we read: «It is an indisputable sign of iconicity that the sequence is absolutely the most cited in the entire history of cinema, both in the form of homage and in the form of parody, by countless followers of the Russian master. So much so that, in the late nineties, the well-known critic Roger Ebert wrote: “… the famous massacre on the Odessa steps is so quoted, that it is probable that many viewers saw the parody before the original”».
To enrich the exhibition it is the turn of two romantic paintings of notable value and quality, a stormy navy by Ivan Konstantinovič Ajvazovsky of 1897, granted by the National Museum in Warsaw, and a large port of Odessa by Rufim Gavrilovitš Sudkovski from 1885, arriving from Kunstimuseum in Tallinn, Estonia. Curious is the presence of some rare ex-votos with scenes of Sardinian brigantines in the bay of Odessa, before and during the Crimean war.
Architecture and cinema alternate along the entire route, now sinking into the constructive analysis of the stairway, now reviewing the frames of a film that has made school and which enhances, in its own shots, the formal details of the scenographic ramp. Period panoramas and new views duet with the ingenious solutions of Ėjzenštejn’s direction at the center of the video installation that tells of its genesis.
Giovanni Francesco Tuzzolino, Federico Crimi and Paolo De Marco
In collaboration with
Territorial University Pole of Agrigento_University of Palermo
National University Lviv Polytechnic
State Archive of Turin
State Archive of the Odessa Region