Martini: mummiaAlberto Martini

(Oderzo 1876-Milan 1954)

Some Words with a Mummy
Pen and Indian ink on paper, 354 x 254 mm
Signed and dated in pen, on the border, lower left: ALBERTO. MARTINI / 1908 and in pencil beneath to the right: A. Martini; title in pen lower centre: PETITE DISCUSSION AVEC UNE MOMIE; inscription in pencil, centre: PÖE


Among the most famous and most reproduced at the time in which Martini exhibited his series for the works of Poe is the drawing depicting the tale of Some Words with a Mummy. Martini illustrates the episode of an Egyptian mummy, from a tomb found in the Libyan mountains, brought back to life by some scholars by means of an electric charge applied with wires directly to the temporal muscle of the cranium. The drawing contains several moments in the narration and is not concerned with the consequentiality of events established in the tale. Although the electrical wires represent only a fleeting episode in Poe, for the illustrator they are transformed into a stable element in the characterisation of the ancient mummy. A procedure that is repeated with the jar of Ponnonner pastilles and the box of Brandreth pills, elements that play a marginal role in the complex account but that for Martini are useful to suggest to the observer the period into which the mummy has been catapulted. According to Vittorio Pica’s coeval opinion, behind the mummy’s shrivelled face hides the self-portrait of Martini himself, wryly metamorphosed and aged to take on the lugubrious features of an ancient artefact.

Alessandro Botta

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