“Nothing is lost”: the art of life in Illegio


This year the small and lovely community of Illegio has given us the gift of an exhibition that has a value, if possible, even more significant than the past editions: “Nothing is lost”, a title that is able to shake immediately; in a moment like the one we are living, forced to fight against the insidious pandemic, Illegio celebrates life and beauty that never give up.

The audacity and provocation touch me immediately. I decide to visit the exhibition during a warm day in September, meeting the usual silent and delicate village of all time. I share some personal impressions about the experience and the project, recommending a visit to anyone, but especially to those who are wondering, like me, about hope and the future: at a time when society as a whole seems so fragile and misguided, can a really new thinking be born that pushes us to accept the most demanding challenge of our time, finding new ways of living and coexisting on Planet Earth?

The story of “Nothing is lost” warms the heart and shakes the conscience.

The Pieve di San Floriano in Illegio, a jewel easily reachable from Illegio


The basic idea of the curator of the exhibition, don Alessio Geretti, founder of the committee of San Floriano di Illegio and director of the extraordinary exhibitions for at least twenty years, is, in itself, brilliant: “Nothing is lost” is proposed as a journey through artworks that can no longer be seen in the world, destroyed or lost, burned to ashes during accidental fires or war ravages or even forgotten and returned to light thanks to the technologies of Factum Arte, the Spanish organization that through an extraordinary team of historians, artists and restorers, has made possible the rebirth of lost works, reproducing every detail, including the three-dimensionality of the brushstrokes

It is truly enchanting the “Vase with five sunflowers” by Vincent Van Gogh, bought by a Japanese collector and destroyed in the bombing of Ashya, near Osaka in Japan, at the same time as the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Struggling and visionary “Medicine“, painted by Gustav Klimt for the ceiling of the University of Vienna and burned in 1945 by the defeated Nazis in Immendorf Castle in Austria. There are also treasures still present among us, but not accessible to the eye: such as the marvellous stained glass windows on the main façade of Chartres Cathedral, masterfully recreated in the San Bellino workshop in Rovigo by Sandro Tomanin and his collaborators

Detail of the stained glass window of Chartres Cathedral, created by Sandro Tomanin for Illegio


The visit of the exhibition confirms one of the factors that have decreed its success from its beginning: the visitor is not left alone in the encounter with the artwork but is gently guided through its history. This year I chose the audio guide and the voice of the curator Don Alessio to immerse myself in the paintings and their stories. Gustav Klimt’s Medicine, among them all: in 1894 the artist, today among the most celebrated in the world, was commissioned to create a series of allegories for the ceiling of the Aula Magna of the University of Vienna. The canvases were intended to represent the values of the university, exalting the rational sciences and their positive effects in the social sphere. Law, Philosophy and Medicine are the three subjects created by the artist who, taking a position, refuses to offer a rational view of the world.

Medicina, splendidamente riprodotta sul soffitto di una delle stanza della mostra, non celebra i traguardi scientifici, ma un’umanità sull’orlo del baratro, vittima di una crisi sociale, politica e psicologica.

L’opera presenta dei corpi fluttuanti (tra cui donne incinte, bambini, vecchi e scheletri) che simboleggiano lo scorrere della vita, nelle sue tappe principali: nascita, crescita, generazione, morte.

Igea, whose name stems from the Greek Ὑγίεια and means “health or remedy” therefore medicine

A naked female figure stands out from the whole, symbolizing the liberation from pain. A radical and unusual painting, where however, in the foreground stands out Igea, from the Greek “health or remedy”, goddess of health, and daughter of the god of Medicine, Aesculapius, who is placed in the centre to act as a link between the human drama and the eye of the spectator. I have observed the work for a long time, confused and captured by its powerful communicative strength.

Today, more than ever before, medicine is the human science par excellence, it crosses the places of pain, facing man’s limit experiences: death and fear.

We are experiencing a historical moment that, for its overall nature, is unprecedented: even today science and technology dominate our lives, they are our natural environment so much so that man is almost no longer at the centre. For this reason, perhaps we are witnessing a degradation of human relations, of authentic relations, of humanity, because the reasons of the globalisation are those of utility, to the detriment of the values of the beautiful, the good, the sacred, the intimate. The pandemic has shown us, however, how science is fundamental but not sufficient to save us: civil society, solidarity and gratuitousness have finally given signs of life, offering hope to this civilization besieged by the interests and speed of time. I do not know if Klimt’s provocation tended towards this conclusion, but my thoughts went to this state of emotional, moral and social anesthesia in which we have been living for some time and from which we suffer, and to those extraordinary examples of collective and civil solidarity that we have experienced in recent months and which have finally rekindled that healthy passion made up of complicity and belonging, alternative thinking and community.

Reason has no value in front of life.” Cesare Pavese


In the hot August of Arles in Provence, Van Gogh used to spend hours in the fields watching the sunflowers he painted continuously and intensely: “I am working on it every morning, from dawn onwards, because the flowers wither so quickly,” he wrote to his brother Theo

Vase with five sunflowers, the second painting in the series, was bought by a Japanese collector, Koyata Yamamoto, for his residence in the Uchide district of Ashiya but, in 1945, the city underwent four air raids by the American army against the backdrop of World War II. During the final attack, on the same day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, eighty-nine people were killed and Yamamoto’s home was one of almost three thousand houses razed to the ground. The Vase with five sunflowers also disappeared among the ashes. The masterpiece comes back to life thanks to the rematerialisation of the experts of Factum Arte: to be able to admire it in Illegio is in itself already a small miracle, to be able to listen to its history in an intimate and intimate context is a privilege. There are 11 series of sunflowers that have come down to us, although probably more, judging by some letters that Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, to whom he was very close and who, as an art dealer, supported his talent throughout his life. Yes, because Van Gogh was by no means an easy figure: described as meek, shy, unwilling to talk, he soon escaped from Paris, too chaotic, frenetic, a metropolis that disorientated him. A controversial personality: feverish, anguished, irreversibly depressed, an unhappy person, he saw in painting his own redemption, his own therapy.

Van Gogh paints the Vase with five sunflowers in 1888

And watching the Vase with five sunflowers, symbol of light, optimism, intensity and that yellow, totalizing, spread with dense brushstrokes, almost real material, I seemed to catch a glimpse of that world of light, which despite the great inner restlessness, the artist had inside and delivered to posterity. By a twist of fate his works began to attract the interest of the great merchants only in the last months of his life. After all, he, as a man and as a painter, always felt like a failure: “I feel how inferior I am to many Belgian painters of enormous talent; as far as I am concerned, I am devoted to unhappiness and failure”.

There is always something incomprehensible in the nature of destiny, and even in the darkest and deepest moments of existence, man is capable of generating extraordinary testimonies of immensity, without even realising it.

It is 1890, at the age of 37, Vincent Van Gogh shoots himself in the chest, ending his life. The funeral took place the following day, his coffin covered with dozens of sunflowers, those flowers he loved so much that, like him, couldn’t be number one, but could wither shining brightly.

Che cosa sarebbe la vita se non avessimo coraggio di correre dei rischi?” Vincent Van Gogh

Stories inspire and help to live better, I am convinced. They are like survival manuals, which we need every day to cope with the hard everyday life. Thanks to Illegio, to don Alessio Geretti and to the Committee for organizing something really special again this year.

An art exhibition? Not only that. A journey in a vortex of enchanting tales, where art is linked to very human stories, all true.

All happened in the most different historical moments and places, all authentic stories of life from which each of us can draw our own little lesson. After all, life, whether we like it or not, is a work of art. And to live it, as the art of life demands, we must be able to face difficult challenges, attempting the impossible, or at least trusting in our ability to make a difference in making life beautiful, harmonious and endowed with meaning and meaning as painters do with their works. A truly daring challenge, in these times, and Illegio offers us a great lesson this year too: nothing that we live, suffer, create, will be lost. And even these complicated days have their own meaning and greatness, which will not be lost

“Our life is a work of art, whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not.” Zygmunt Baumann

The apples of Illegio, artworks as well


Illegio’s international art exhibition ” Nothing is lost” will be on view until 13th December 2020. For safety reasons this year the reservation is compulsory (it can be made even just a few minutes beforehand if we have available in that specific time slot). The use of the mask inside is compulsory in compliance with the regulations in force for the containment of the Covid19 epidemic. It is required to be present at the exhibition at least 10 minutes before the visit in order to purchase the ticket and enter in perfect time.

Here is the link to make your reservation

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