Vademecum for the visionary traveller
Antonio Possenti’s Lucca




It’s some time since we encountered such an original, aristocratic artist of the fantastical.

Dino Buzzati, Corriere della Sera, Milan, 6 Dec 1970

On Saturday 9 October, the Province of Lucca opens an exhibition of the Lucchese artist Antonio Possenti. VADEMECUM PER IL VIAGGIATORE VISIONARIO is a tribute to Lucca with sixty specially created and previously unseen works in which Possenti depicts some of the most important and curious events, people and buildings in the town which is his birthplace.
After some thirty years, the artist is exhibiting once again in his hometown, after travelling throughout Italy and abroad and being celebrated wherever he went. Antonio Possenti’s studio is here in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro in the ancient heart of the city. It was here that this internationally known artist created his personal alphabet of signs and symbols and his storytelling style which is old but also entirely new.
The exhibition is a romantic, intimate reading of Lucca, a fantastical story – as only Possenti with his original language can tell – of happenings and personalities that have bequeathed their quirks and fame to the city.
As Dino Buzzati and Alfonso Gatto, who both wrote about him, recalled, his pictures are populated by imaginary animals and figures, his Gnometti – elves, birds, fish and butterflies as have never been seen before. Works that recall the lavishly imaginary worlds of Bruegel, Bosch, the Nabis, Chagall and Arcimboldi.
VADEMECUM PER UN VIAGGIATORE is arranged according to ideas and themes dedicated to Lucca:

  • The most important Historical Events in the history of Lucca, from the Revolt of the Straccioni to the Battle of Altopascio, from the Poggi Conspiracy to St Paolino’s miracle, including curious episodes such as that of so-called Whale when, at the end of the 15th century, large whalebones found on the beach near Lucca were exhibited outside the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi as miraculous objects, as documented by an epigraph written by the humanist Nicolao Tegrimi.
  • Views and Corners of Lucca including the horti conclusi and the gardens that have beautified the city since medieval times; the Amphitheatre, the Walls and bastions, and the Cathedral of San Martino where the Volto Santo, Nicodemus’s carving of Christ on the cross, is kept.
  • Important People in the history of Lucca, from the illustrious Giacomo Puccini to the trader and explorer Carlo Piaggia, from Vincenzo Lunardi, one of the first aviators in history, to Aldo Olvieri, goalkeeper for Italy when they won the World Championship in 1938, from Francesco Carrara to Carlo del Prete. There’s also a tribute to the musician Chet Baker who spent sixteen months in San Giorgio Prison, playing his trumpet and giving concerts to the people of Lucca who sat on the grass beneath the Walls to listen to him.
  • The theme of a further section is paper. Possenti presents some of his interpretations of paper and different types of this material – rice paper, straw paper, manuscript paper, etc – that becomes the theme of some of his works.

This section is linked to the special mounting of the exhibition which consists of display panels in cardboard partly made from recycled paper. Paper experienced both as the artist’s support and as a multifunctional material whose uses can be extended into new areas of experimentation. The exhibition was designed by architects Carlo Pellegrini and Alessandra Guidi and inspired by collaboration with the Città Sottili project of the LUCENSE institute for technological research.