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Botero in Pietrasanta
Photo © Alessandro Farese
Photo © Alessandro Farese

Botero and Versilia: the strong bond between the artist and Pietrasanta

The famous Colombian painter and sculptor has created works of great shapes that appear all over Pietrasanta. Let's find out what they are.

Fernando Botero left us on 15 September 2023 at the age of 91. He was the artist of forms, of abundance. Puffed figures with a vague look, broad strokes of colour, voluminous and rounded sculptures, his style is still unique and unmistakable. His works that are so static and voluptuous take on a dimension of surreal suspension rather than that of caricature, with a touch of irony and the total absence of drama. This is his artistic response to a reality that he used to define as arid.

In spite of often hostile criticism, Botero is still very popular with the public. His art communicates something that many often miss, but that greatly affects people. Let's discover his bond with Versilia, in particular with Pietrasanta, a quiet and hospitable place where he stayed often and for long periods. Consider that his ashes are kept in this town, in the Via Garibaldi cemetery, finding their place next to the remains of his wife, Greek artist Sophia Vari, who died a few months before him.

The Warrior by Botero
The Warrior by Botero
Botero The Gate of Paradise in Pietrasanta
Botero, The Gate of Paradise - Credit: Cea

Pietrasanta has a long tradition of both marble workshops and artistic foundries, the latter of which were at the centre of Botero's interest. After having travelled to Madrid, Paris, Florence and New York, in 1983 he decided to buy a house in Pietrasanta, choosing the beauty and quiet that surrounded the road that climbs up to the Rocca. The artist's home is easily recognizable: it's the one with the roof surmounted by a round bronze rooster, whose short wings stretch towards dawn.

In the town that charmed him, Botero also opened a studio: a large room not far from Piazza Duomo, where he used to retire to design and assemble his sculptures in the summer.

Botero loved to live in close contact with the people of Pietrasanta, and his art enters more and more into the fabric of the place: since 1993, two large frescoes entitled "The Gate of Paradise" and "The Gate of hell" attract the gaze of passers-by towrads the inside the Church of the Misericordia, while in Piazza Matteotti we can admire his opulent "Warrior" (1992).

La porta dell'Inferno - Botero
La porta dell'Inferno - Botero

Since 2001, Fernando Botero has been an honorary citizen of Pietrasanta, in a return to Italian origins. In the 1780s, his ancestors, Giuseppe and Paolo Botero, sailed from the port of Genoa to Medellin, where the artist would later be born on April 19, 1932.

On October 21, 2007, seven of his bronze statues were stolen from his studio in Pietrasanta for a value of approximately 4 million euros. In May of the following year, three of the statues were found and the perpetrators were arrested.

On the occasion of his 80th birthday, the exhibition titled Fernando Botero: designer and sculptor (2012) was set up in Pietrasanta, with the display of 80 works from his private collection.

In 2020, Botero donated a painting to the Municipality of Pietrasanta in aid of those in difficulty due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

In addition to a stroll in the centre of Pietrasanta that has become an open-air museum called the International Park of Contemporary Sculpture, it's recommended to visit the Models Museum, where plaster models of the all-round works "Adam", "Eve", and "Woman with an umbrella" are exhibited.

On the occasion of Botero's death in 2023, the artist's admirers and the citizens of Pietrasanta (also known as Little Athens) paid a moving tribute to his ashes, which were put in the historic church of Sant'Antonio Abate for the farewell ceremony that preceded the burial.

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