Tag Archives: Carlo Vannucci from Viareggio (Lucca)

Attori e Artisti

A series of remarkable events has contributed to a greater understanding of the staging of a play at Cowra Camp June 1946.

Background

A special thank you to the following people and their contributions:

Hugh Cullimore: Assistant Curator- Art Section, Australian War Memorial Canberra, for his knowledge of Cowra artists Carlo Vannucci and Eliseo Pieraccini;

Francesca Maffietti: from Ospitaletto di Cormano (Milano) granddaughter of  Ippolito Moscatelli for the photos of the Cowra Chapel;

Marco Lucantoni: from Napoli, son of Stefano Lucantoni for a program from the play ‘L’Antenato’ staged at Cowra 28th June 1946.

The Play

In Cowra POW Camp on the 28th June 1946, a group of Italian prisoners of war staged L’Antenato [The Ancestor] a Commedia in 3 Atti by Carlo Veneziani. This play was first staged in Genoa 1922 and in 1936 a film based on the play was produced. Click to read the script for the play.

The carefully designed and produced program highlights the efforts the men made for their production. If the quality of the program is a reflection on the efforts of the men in staging this play, then this production must have been excellent.

The play was directed by Guerrino Mazzoni, the sets created by Eliseo Pieraccini and Carlo Vannucci. Construction and equipment were by Stefano Lucantoni, Renato Bianchi, Felice di Sabatino, Luigi Proietti, Armano Mazzoni and Cesare Di Domenico. Program design (screenwriter) was by Giuseppe Carrari.

 Performers were Bruno Pantani, Guerrino Mazzoni, Carlo Vannucci, Tarcisio Silva, Bruno Dell’Amico*, Luigi Giambelli, Renato Bazzani, Marcello Molfotti, Alvise Faggiotto, Stefano Lucantoni.

The Actors

The roles were played as follows:

Il Barone di MONTESPANTO Bruno Pantani

L’ingegnere Guiscardo MONTESPANTO  Guerrino Mazzoni

La Signora LEUCI Carlo Vannucci

VANNETTA figlia della signora Leuci  Tarcisio Silva

GERMANA fidanzata di Guiscardo Bruno Dell Amico

FANNY nipote di Egidio Luigi Giambelli

Il Cavalier BERGANDI Renato Bazzani

SAMUELE GANGA l’usuraio Marcello Molfotti

Il domestico ASCANIO Alvise Faggiotto

Il custode EGIDIO Stefano Lucantoni

Reflections

Marco Lucantoni shared this program with me in October 2018, but its true value was not realised until the pieces of this historical puzzle were patched together.

Marco remembers, “My father [Stefano] often told me about his friend, this great artist who was Carlo Vannucci, creator of the Viareggio carnival floats.”  

Carlo Vannuci, Tascisio Silva, Bruno Dell’Amico and Luigi Giambelli played the female roles. Males playing the females is a recipe for a highly comedic and hilariously funny performance.

These men came from all walks of life; some were single, others were married; their ages ranged from 25 to 34 years; and two brothers were part of the group.

The historical context of the play’s performance is that the majority of Italian prisoners of war were withdrawn from farm work by February 1946 with a promise of ‘going home soon’. Italian prisoners of war from Queensland and New South Wales were brought into the camps at Cowra, Hay and Liverpool to await repatriation.

L’Antenato was performed in June 1946; a little reprieve from the boredom and angst associated with the wait to return home. It would be 7 months for most of the Italian prisoners of war before they landed at Naples.

Fourteen of the seventeen men sailed on the Alcantara, departing Sydney on 23.12.46. Renato Bazzani left Sydney on the Moreton Bay on 30.7.46 while Lugi Proietti and Luigi Giambelli departed on the Ormonde from Sydney on the 31.12.46.

A quiet reflection from the great bard Shakespeare:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts…

The Italians were sons, fathers, husbands, soldiers, prisoners of war, international travellers, letter writers, multi-linguists, diary keepers, actors, artists and eventually ‘FREE’.  

The Cast and Crew

I include the details of the cast and crew in the hope that their families will find this article and this personal connection to the past.

Marcello Molfotti 1912 Mechanic Quesa Lucea (Quiesa [Lucca]) [Navy]

Stefano Lucantoni 1914 Plumber from Roma

Eliseo Pieraccini 1914 Clerk from Viareggio (Lucca)

Renato Bazzani 1915 Milano Policeman

Tarcisio Silva 1916 Clerk from Milano

Renato Bianchi 1917 Carpenter from Milano

Guerrino Mazzoni 1917 Clerk from Bologna (brother to Armano)

Alvise Faggiotto 1917 Verona Farmer

Cesare Di Domenico 1917 Farmer from Capistrello (Aquila)

Luigi Proietti 1919 Butcher Roma

Giuseppe Carrari1919 Clerk from Piombino (Livorno)

Felice di Sabatino 1919 Blacksmith Roma

Bruno Pantani 1919 Butcher from Roma

Luigi Giambelli 1920 Mechanic Milano

Bruno Dell’Amico* 1920 ELETTROTECNICO Carrara

Carlo Vannucci 1920 Decorator from Viareggio (Lucca)

Armano Mazzoni  1921 Clerk Bologna (brother to Guerrino)

*Bruno Dell’Amico: soldato, prigioniero di guerra, sindacalista e politico socialista, cineaste. Bruno’s son Evandro has written 3 books about his father: L’Uomo Tornato da Lontano, Il Viaggio Australe, L’Artigiano dell’Immagine and 1 book about his uncle Evandro who was a prisoner of war in Germany: In Mio Nome, Mai Piu

Two Artists and a Cowra Chapel

Eliseo Pieraccini and Carlo Vannucci are names on the lists of Italian prisoners of war sent to Australia during WW 2.  Individually, they were just a number and a name; their details were recorded and notated on multiple Australian Military Forces forms.

But there are invisible threads that connect the two men.  They were both from Viareggio (Lucca) a seaside town on the Tuscan coast.  They arrived in Australia from India onboard the Mariposa. Their only placement in Australia was Cowra: 27.4.44 until repatriation onboard the Alcantara 23.12.46. They both left a lasting legacy.

Vannucci’s occupation is recorded as ‘decorator’ and Pieraccini’s occupation is ‘clerk’. They are names that remain forever connected to this history and Cowra, because during their time in Cowra, they painted ‘renaissance’ style Altar Panels for Cowra Camp 12 (C).

Cowra Altar Compound 12 (C) c. 1946  (photo courtesy of Francesca Maffietti)

The coloured photo of the chapel at Camp 12(C) was one of three photos Ippolito Moscatelli took home to Ospitaletto di Cormano (Milano)  with him; souvenirs of life as a prisoner of war in Australia. At first glance, granddaughter Francesca  Maffietti thought this was a chapel in Italy.  Her grandparents made pilgrimages to many chapels in Italy, taking photos along the way. At first glance this chapel could be mistaken for an Italian chapel; the decorations are undoubtedly Italian in style.  Eliseo and Carlo through their art, brought a little of Italy to Cowra.

The wooden floor, corrugated iron roof, exposed beams and gaps between walls and roof: this is the chapel in 1946. The altar is painted in a fashion to appear like marble. The details are beautiful: the motif of the Holy Ghost represented as a dove above the crucifix, the cross on the front of the altar, the paintings of Mary and Jesus, the backdrop painted in burgundy, whites and shades of black. In contrast is the November 1941 chapel for Cowra Camp 12 (C). It consisted of an outdoor altar. Quite possibly this original altar eventually found a home inside a hut and bit by bit, decorative paintings were added as were religious items.

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle Galles du Sud, camp de Cowra No 12, section C. Autel en plein air. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, camp 12, section C. Outdoors altar.

Outside Altar Cowra Camp 12 C 12.11.41 (ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00217)

The Altar panels of Mary and Jesus are stored at the Cowra Regional Art Gallery. Details about the panels can be found at: https://www.cowraguardian.com.au/story/6550175/council-seeks-heritage-listing-for-italian-pow-art-works/

The Virgin Mary painted by Eliseo Pieraccini (left) and Jesus painted by Carlo Vannucci (right) (photos from The Cowra Guardian December 24 2019, Council Seeks Heritage Listing for Italian POW Art Works)

Carlo Vannucci

In addition to this little know history is the close connection between Sergeant Robert Dunlop Burge and Carlo Vannucci. Hugh Cullimore, Art Curator at the Australian War Memorial provides the following information:“Sergeant Robert Dunlop Burge (N386934) was in charge of the Engineering section at Cowra prisoner of war camp from 15 May 1942 to 29 April 1947. During his service as a guard, Sergeant Burge formed friendships with several of the prisoners, including Italian artist Carlo Vannucci. Vannucci had been captured in Libya and transported by the US Navy to Australia, where he was interned in Cowra. Sergeant Burge organised paints and canvas from old flour bags for Vannucci and other artists in the camp. Sergeant Burge’s wife, Jenny Catherine Burge, regularly travelled on the train to visit her husband serving at the camp. Vannucci painted [a] portrait of Jenny for Sergeant Burge, as a gift.” And the same initial descriptor with this quote: “Sometime later on a routine workshop inspection Vannucci took me by surprise with a gift of a framed painting which he had signed” Burge said in 1975, in an article published in the local paper at the time, as reported by the ‘Cowra Guardian’, 5 June 2014. “It was an impression from memory of a sea view in his home town Viareggio, an Italian well known seaside resort…The painting was an expression of Vannucci’s thanks.”

Colleen Hill, daughter of Sergeant Burge visited Carlo in Italy in 2014 as reported: https://www.cowraguardian.com.au/story/2332256/a-new-generation-of-friendship/

Carlo Vannucci on return to Italy continued his artistic passion with his involvement in the Carvevale di Viareggio: https://2017.gonews.it/2015/09/30/viareggio-carnevale-morto-carlo-vannucci-decano-dei-carristi/  The facebook group: Carnevale di Viareggio highlights a number of Carlo’s works. 

“La vacca capitolina” di Carlo Vannucci (Carro di prima categoria)terzo premio al CarnevalediViareggio 1979

Eliseo Pieraccini

In the Relic Collection of the Australian War Memorial, there is a sculpture that is attributed to Eliseo Pieraccini.  Hugh Cullimore Art Curator provides the following information: The two [photos] titled CR25408 are of the Pieraccini work we have, with scant details on its creation. I note its strong Art Deco appearance, a style that was sliding out of fashion by the time of the War.

Statue made by Eliseo Pieraccini (AWM CR25408)

What works of art did your father bring home from Italy?

Did they create an item in wood or metal?

Do you have a painting or sketch made by your nonno?

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
― 
Pablo Picasso

A special thank you to Francesca Maffetti, granddaughter of Ippolito Moscatelli and Hugh Cullimore, Art Curator Australian War Memorial for their contributions to this article.

POST SCRIPT: The history of the Cowra Camp is complicated.  It consisted of 4 compounds: A, B, C and D each capable of accommodating 1000 people. It housed prisoners of war: Italian, Japanese, Korea and Formosan; and internees: Italian, Indonesian and Javanese.  Which group lived in which compound changed during the years of its operation : 1941-1946.

In 1942 Compound D was named: Special Camp 12 (D) for Italian prisoner of war Dysentery Carriers [amoebic and bacillary carriers].

Cowra Camp also housed children. Indonesian families were interned at Cowra in September 1943.

By 1944 Compound D housed Japanese Officers, Formosans and Koreans.

Such was the complexity of the prisoner of war and internment camps in Australia.