There are only a handful of Bragaglia images from the 1910s that feature women, including ‘The Rose’ and ‘The Typist’ (1911), now in the Gilman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2005.100.244). The photograph offered here, also captioned in the 1970 edition of Fotodinamismo futurista as ‘L’Attrice Fotodinamizzata (Zarina de Sylvain della compagnia Talli, che odora una rosa)’ or ‘The Photodynamic Actress (Zarina de Sylvain of the Talli Company, smelling a rose)’ of 1913. Film scholar Angela Dalle Vacche emphasizes the importance of this image as a subtle but important reference to the popular cultural phenomenon of the ‘Diva Film,’ which flourished in Italy between 1910 and 1920 in her book Diva: Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema. The Diva Film mirrored the evolving Italian culture of the first decades of the 20th century, promoting female independence through storylines depicting divorce, gambling, smoking, practicing sports, and even child custody disputes. The actress in Bragaglia’s photograph is Zarina de Sylvain, shown in the action of smelling a rose. Roses were a common cliché in the Diva Film, whether depicted fragrant and blossoming with life or withering away in a heavy-handed memento mori about the passage of time.
Shortly after this photograph was made, Anton Bragaglia shifted from photography to film. In 1918, he opened a gallery called Casa d’arte Bragaglia in Rome, where he showed the work of many artists, including his brother Arturo who in the early 1920’s renewed research in photodynamics. Although the Bragaglias made photodynamic images into the 1930s, their early photographs from the 1910s are exceptionally rare and seldom appear on the market.
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