CULTURE

Saverio Altamura, revolutionary and artist

Indirect family ties and direct contact with the works of artist Francesco Saverio Altamura (1822-97) led former Ambassador Ioannis Bourloyannis-Tsangaridis to conduct extensive research in museums in New York and Italy. The aim was to unearth information on the life, times and artistic oeuvre of the seductive artist who was tied to Greece through marriage.

While Saverio Altamura was married to Spetses-born Eleni Boukouri-Altamura, the Italian artist?s ties to Greece preceded their union, given that his mother, Sofia Perifano, came from a Greek family with Corfiot roots.

The well-crafted results of Bourloyannis-Tsangaridis?s vast research were eventually published in a book by Lousi Bratzioti Editions, ?Francesco Saverio Altamura: His Life and Works? (in Greek). The book covers a bibliographical gap, considering that up until now there had been no monograph on the artist?s life and works. As the author points out, few articles were published about Altamura following his death and those that were focused more on the artist?s political activities than his artistic achievement.

In the book, Bourloyannis-Tsangaridis reveals a multifaceted life: ?Full of adventures — patriotic, emotional and human.?

In his autobiography, Altamura had conceded that although he was a sweet-natured person, he had been disappointed by various people he had come to trust. Despite this, he never turned into a pessimist.

Born in Naples, Altamura went against his family?s wishes for him to become a doctor, and turned to painting instead. The first time he profited from this decision was when he managed to buy out his military service after winning an art competition with mythological subject matter.

He was also actively involved in demonstrations fighting for Italy?s independence and ended up in prison. He subsequently escaped and found himself in Florence, ?The Athens of Italy,? as he used to refer to the Tuscan city.

In Florence, he participated in a young artists? movement which rebelled against academic art and enjoyed a long creative period. It was during this time that he met Eleni Boukouri, who was studying in Florence dressed as a man.

An exhibition currently on display at the Benaki Museum?s Pireos Street annex (to May 22) features works by both Francesco and Eleni, along with those of their sons, Ioannis and Alessandro. Bourloyannis-Tsangaridis?s book complements the universe of these talented, yet ultimately ill-fated figures.