Casa Balla in Rome

The house of the Futurist artist

Tri tri tri,
fru fru fru,
ihu ihu ihu,
uhi uhi uhi.

I start this article with the first lines of the poem “E lasciatemi divertire! (And let me have fun!)” by Aldo Palazzeschi, to introduce the world of Futurists. I add another onomatopoeia of mine to the poem: “Toc Toc” to open the door house at number 39B in Via Oslavia in Rome, the home of Giacomo Balla (Turin, 1871 – Rome, 1958), one of the greatest exponents of this Italian current of the early twentieth century.

Rome map
Giacomo Balla, Compenetrazione iridescente n. 4 (Studio della luce), 1912-1913, oil and pencil on paper, Mart Museum, Private collection

Unfortunately, I was not able to enter the apartment personally, reopened after restoration on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth, as the tickets had been sold out for months. I wrote to the MAXXI museum which manages the visits, to understand if the opening was also extended to 2023, but nothing is certain.

Someone was able to visit it for me and sent me his notes and photographs of the interior that I share with you:

  • The whole family of Giacomo Balla lived in this house, even the daughters of whom were artists, Luce and Elica (translated should be Light and Propeller) in reference to the impetuous futurist speed.
  • The daughter Elica was in love with the clouds, and she had a think tank built in her room where she read and wrote.
  • In Luce’s room, on the other hand, the chandelier of the time takes up the decoration of the ceiling.
  • The kitchen window was walled up for the construction of the building next door. To compensate for the damage, a room in the same building under construction was sold to the Balla family, even though the floor level was lower. There is an inscription drawn by the daughters that surmount the door to access this new part of the house: “the noise room”, defined as you could always hear the water splashing from the pipes.
The noise room
  • The original clothes of the time are exhibited inside the house. Sometimes his wife made them, other times Roman tailoring made costumes for the theatre.

WE MUST INVENT FUTURIST CLOTHES, hap-hap-hap-hap-happy clothes, daring clothes with brilliant colours and dynamic lines. They must be simple, and above all they must be made to last for a short time only in order to encourage industrial activity and to provide constant and novel enjoyment for our bodies.

(Manuscript, 1913) Futurist manifesto of men’s clothing
The corridor
  • When their father died, the sisters continued to live in the house until the 1990s.
  • The beauty of this apartment does not derive from the presence of the objects, but from the house itself which is a piece of art. The immersive environmental decorations create a total work of art, as was the Balla’s intent.
The Studio

I hope visits can continue in 2023 to make this house a shared heritage.

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