When Futurism was founded in 1909, its hostility towards the institution of the Catholic Church was pronounced, and accompanied by a rejection of Christian concepts of morality. Despite this, the publication of a 'Manifesto of Futurist Sacred Art' in 1931 inspired a flowering of religious painting that constitutes perhaps one of the most unexpected episodes in the history of the movement.

Futurism's attacks against the Church were motivated by a nationalistic ideology, having their roots in the anticlerical traditions of the Risorgimento, Italy's nineteenth-century struggle for territorial unification. This was finally achieved in 1870, but only at the expense of the Church, which was stripped of its rule over the Papal States of central Italy. In retaliation, Pope Pius IX refused to recognise the new Italian kingdom and excommunicated its leaders.

Although promoting values very different to those of Catholicism, Futurism had in fact addressed the question of spirituality from its early years. Speed was embraced as a 'new religion-morality' and the spiritual consequences of mankind's ever-closer relationship with the machine were explored by artists throughout the 1920s.

During the following decade, the experience of flight inspired many artists to ponder the spiritual implications of their physical liberation from the earth in the form of a new genre known as 'Aeropainting'. Such interests - coupled with the reconciliation of Church and State during the Fascist era - laid the foundations for the explosion of Futurist religious art that appeared in the 1930s.

This exhibition traced the evolution of Futurism's fascinating and complex attitude towards religion and spirituality, focusing in particular upon works of sacred art created in accordance with the tenets of Marinetti's manifesto on the subject by artists such as Alessandro Bruschetti, Gerardo Dottori, Mino Delle Site, Fillia, Giuseppe Preziosi, Bruno Tano, Ernesto Thayaht and Wladimiro Tulli.

The exhibition was supported by the Jolly Hotel.

Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau on the set of La Notte by Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960 © Sergio Strizzi Photography

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Pasquarosa, Vase of Flowers, c. 1916

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