Adolfo Wildt’s masks of human pain

The Sicilian writer Luigi Pirandello was a great fan of Adolfo Wildt (Milan, 1868-1931); like Gabriele D’Annunzio, he also collected his works. He even commissioned the Swiss-origin sculptor to make the masks for his most famous masterpiece, “Six Characters in Search of an Author”.

Wildt was deeply inspired by the common literary theme of the “double”, which Pirandello explored masterly in his prose and plays.

His pained masks – with hollow eyes that could cry out the darkness of an ailing soul, or let in the light of reality to dispel all lies and evil – clearly call back to the faces described by Pirandello in his essay on humorism (“L’Umorismo”): “Each one fixes his mask up as he can, the exterior mask”, but inside we all have “another one, often contradicting the one outside”.

We might say that Wildt’s metaphysical and surrealist works represent “the other mask” Pirandello mentions. But clearly, they are a clue that the Agrigento-born author was wrong when he declared, “Nothing is true”: the pain and gloom Wildt expressed were certainly real.

Adolfo Wildt, "Parsifal (Il puro folle)", 1930

"Parsifal (The Pure Fool)", 1930

Adolfo Wildt "Vir temporis acti (Uomo antico)", 1913

"Vir temporis acti (Ancient Man)", 1913

Adolfo Wildt Maschera del dolore, 1909

"Mask of Pain", 1909

Wildt Adolfo, Fulcieri Paulucci de' Calboli, 1921

"Fulcieri Paulucci de' Calboli", 1921

"Saint Francis", 1925

Wildt Adolfo. Arturo Toscanini, 1923

"Arturo Toscanini", 1923

Wildt Adolfo Filo d'oro, 1927

"Gold Thread", 1927

Adolfo Wildt, Augusto Solari, 1918

"Augusto Solari", 1918

Adolfo Wildt, "La Vergine", 1924

"The Virgin", 1924

Adolfo Wildt "Santa Lucia", 1926-27

"Saint Lucy", 1926-27

Adolfo Wildt "Carattere fiero, anima gentile", 1912

"The Proud Face of a Gentle Soul", 1912

Adolfo-Wildt "Un Rosario", 1915

"Rosary Beads", 1915

Adolfo Wildt - Affetto nel dolore, 1929

"Fondness in Pain", 1929

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