Big Mike

Sandro Bondi is a professional politician with a degree in philosophy. He started out in the Italian Communist Party (PCI), working as an insurance agent, then became mayor of Fivizzano and swiftly transformed the town council, and himself, into Christian Democrat lackeys. He left the PCI soon after. In 1994 Bondi met Berlusconi and was hired to deal with the great buffoon’s personal correspondence, a task he no doubt performed with dedication and alacrity, although it’s hard to imagine SB committing anything of importance to a medium as potentially damaging as paper. In 2001 he was the man behind the hagiographical Una Storia Italiana, a pack of half- and downright lies designed to hoodwink the Italian electorate into voting for the lecherous old crook. Unfortunately, it worked. 

Despite having no apparent aptitude for cultural matters – although he does write excruciatingly banal verse – Bondi is now minister of fine arts in a country that possesses two-thirds of the world’s art treasures. But don’t worry, he isn’t alone. One of the first things he did as minister was hire a certain Mario Resca, initially as consultant and then as director general of the country’s museums. Before taking on this important role, Resca was CEO of McDonald’s Italia. So that’ll be two McBacon Menus and a Michelangelo to go. 

And talking of Michelangelo, Bondi and Resca seem to have got themselves into a bit of a mess with the recent purchase of the dead Christ above. Sixteen inches tall, it cost over three million euros, which is too little for a genuine work by Michelangelo and too much for something by a less famous contemporary. Some art historians defend it, others don’t. The artist rarely worked in wood and almost never worked at such a small scale, which doesn’t rule out the attribution but does invite caution. What’s indisputable is the lack of caution in the way the statue has been put to use. It’s become part of the Berlusconi circus, travelling up and down the country in much the same way as Noemi, delighting the President here and wowing the plebiscite there. The pope loves it, which isn’t surprising. What’s even less surprising is that the Corte dei Conti – responsible for auditing state spending – sniffs a rat. As the New York Times said, back in April:

Prosecutors for Italy’s National Audit Office are now looking into the purchase to determine whether the state overpaid for the object, and Renaissance art experts will be asked whether it should be credited to Michelangelo.

Many have spoken out already.

“The attribution wrongs Michelangelo, as well as the history of 15th-century Florence,” where there were at least a dozen skilled artisans capable of making crucifixes like the one in question, said Francesco Caglioti, a specialist in Renaissance sculpture, who believes that the crucifix is typical of those made in such workshops, and is worth about 100,000 euros, or about $129,700.

“Unfortunately, my colleagues have forgotten that, and every time something beautiful emerges, they attribute it to a famous name,” Mr. Caglioti said. “It would seem like everything done in Renaissance Florence can be attributed to 10 people with a thousand hands.”

Back to the Big Macs for Resca? Somehow, I doubt it.
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