Italian Dandyism: Gabriele D’Annunzio

da9Dandyism spread in Italy as well at the end of the nineteenth century and  Gabriele D’annunzio was its most outstanding exponent, for sure.  Aesthete, politician, journalist, playwright, poet, lover: D’Annunzio was a man of many passions, but above all the architect of himself. He studied and created his own image carefully, a mixture of exquisite taste and love for heroic actions.He was associated with the elite Arditi storm troops of the Italian Army and took part in actions such as the Flight over Vienna in 1918. Some of the ideas and aesthetics seem to have influenced Italian fascism and also the style of Benito Mussolini. However he was the Vate, the Bard, of the Italian literature during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Gabriele D’Annunzio  moved to Rome, when he was but nineteen and was soon fascinated by the swirling atmosphere of the capital. He managed to open his way to that evanescent and ephemeral society that charmed him so much, working as a reporter of custom and society for La Tribuna, under the pseudonym of “Duca Minimo” (The Duke), just to make clear which ambitions he nursed, demonstrating technical competence and an uncommon style for a provincial boy.

da10The accuracy he displayed in describing a dress for a lady or giving tips on hair styles or fashion showed not only his will to fight against the mediocrity of every day life but his belief that art is only merchandise whose rules cannot be ignored by an artist. Hence, D’Annunzio  understood pretty soon that the language of fashion was absolutely innovative and powerful, that’s why, like a modern Petronius, he made himself a model of taste, the “arbiter elegantiarum” of the Roman and Italian society under King Umberto I.

D’Annunzio will define himself, in fact, a “valuable animal”  whose aesthetic education of his spirit drags him irresistibly to desire and purchase  beautiful things“, particularly high fashion clothes. You can have an idea of his expensive wardrobe only making a simple guided tour at  Il Vittoriale degli Italiani, a sort of museum which he planned and developed, adjacent to his villa at Gardone Riviera on the southwest bank of Lake Garda, between 1923 and his death. In a new space, below the Amphitheater, called  “D’Annunzio secret” there are some pieces of clothing that belonged to the Italian “Bard”.  Here we find many many shoes and boots as you may admire in the following pics; d4d6 d5

he had countless outfits,of course, and  linen . It seems he had 365 dressing gowns, one for each day.


Examining his wardrobes his elegant taste emerged: English fabrics, hats. D ‘Annunzio dressed as the high society of his time required. French intellectuals were right when they said that he acted himself and that behaved as an impresario who was looking for buyers. His only transgression was his excessive love for details. He had thousands of identical underpants and thousands of ties all equal. He was also a fashion designer, in fact in the following pic you may see one of his most  famous creations. It is called the nightgown with a porthole and I guess it is quite explicative about the character of the Bard . 😉 d7

The poet donated the Vittoriale to the Italians because he wanted to be remember not only his literary work and his exploits of war, but also his daily life at his home. The Italian Vittoriale is not a mausoleum, but as he wanted Gabriele D’Annunzio a “House of living stones“.


16 thoughts on “Italian Dandyism: Gabriele D’Annunzio

    • Of course, he was much more, as you explained so well in your post. He was a different sort of dandy, however, because he combined that feminine side which was expressed by his love for fashion and details, to a more masculine and muscular exhibition of his manhood in heroic enterprises at war and not only. However, thank you so much for dropping by, I did enjoy reading your post.

  1. I’d been more familiar with the scandalous part of d’Annunzio’s reputation (rumored to drink from the skull of a virgin) and his seizure of Fiume, as commenter toritto mentioned. So it was good to read about some of his other more substantial contributions as an artist.

    That and his political side aren’t that far apart, though. Irredentism, d’Annunzio’s ideological excuse for seizing Fiume, was an aggressive projection of the romantic nationalism of the 19th century. To my surprise, I learned years ago that the term made the jump from Italian to English between the world wars, when it was used to describe any nationalist movement that sought to annex neighboring territories on ethnic or historical grounds. The freezing of national boundaries and the domination of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union after the Second World War put an end to irredentism as a living term in the English language, probably permanently, though it could be used these days to describe Russia’s designs on Ukraine.

  2. While reading this article I started to understand how people justify the horror of the actions made by an important person.
    Gabriele D’Annunzio is referred to as the ‘Vate’. He is a fascist, but the society justifies him , because he is a great poet, an aesthete, a man surrounded by art. But how we can forgot the horror of fascism with some paper and ink. We should talk more about this hypocrisy embedded in our culture. Poetry can not erase such an horror.

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