by Viviana Pezzullo


The intent of this paper is to explore the theme of body and corporeality in Michelangelo Pistoletto’s artwork. The human figure in Pistoletto’s works experiences a growth reflecting the sociopolitical and cultural changes that Italy experienced from 1950s to date. Pistoletto’s exclusive focus on the male figure, evident in his first self-portraits, shifts increasingly towards a more comprehensive vision of both men’s and women’s body and human nature. In fact, with the series Mirror Paintings, Pistoletto conducts visual experiments by making the viewer’s body, male and female, part of his piece of art, through the presence of mirrors, which reflect whoever stands in front of it and abolish the boundaries between the reflection and body in the flesh. Moreover, the mirror also allows the subject to be completely immersed in his/her surrounding environment, as an invitation of the artist to pay more attention to what it is around. In Segno Arte, in his search for a new concept of humanity, Pistoletto finds in the female body the right symbol to depict the whole humankind, transforming Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man into a “Vitruvian Woman.” Pistoletto’s art does reach that point of annulment of the distinction between the male Subject and the female Other, which Simone de Beauvoir theorized in The Second Sex and challenges the vision of the male normality in contrast to the female abnormality. Ultimately, Pistoletto aims to blur the distinction between individual, environment and gender, and to engage his public in a deep conversation, glorifying differences but demolishing hierarchies.

“The body is to be compared, not to a physical object, but rather to a
work of art.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception

Michelangelo Pistoletto belongs to those ranks of artists who, after the Second World War, decided to embrace figurative art, rather than abstraction, and gave great importance to the representation of the body. Pistoletto has dealt with the theme of the body throughout his entire career, moving from his first experiments on the male figure, based on self-portraits, to representations of the female body, seen as the origin of all things. The human figure in Pistoletto’s works experiences a growth that goes from an exclusive focus on the self to a complete integration of the individual with the environment. Having said that, the body expresses an active and political engagement within its historical context and, in fact, its transformations reflect the changes that Italy experienced from 1950s to 1990s. For this reason, Pistoletto’s focus and techniques have evolved over the years, in response to social and cultural tendencies.

While Pistoletto’s early works mostly depict male figures, with the series Mirror Paintings the artist incorporates the viewer within the piece of art, so that the center of attention is no longer exclusively the man, but it changes according to the person standing in from on the mirror. Along this path, starting from the series Art Sign, Pistoletto literally puts the woman at the center of the universe and addresses humanity in its wider sense. Although, Pistoletto has never declared himself to be feminist, his art does reach that point of annulment of the distinction between the male Subject and the female Other, which Simone de Beauvoir theorized in The Second Sex. Most importantly, Pistoletto overturns the dichotomy between the concepts of female abnormality and male normality, by turning the woman into the norm, which, interestingly enough, becomes representative of humanity as such, including both males and females.

Despite Pistoletto’s several experimentations with diverse subjects and techniques, one of the constants of his work is definitely the special attention that the artist gives to Italian artistic tradition, which he uses as a lens to observe and interpret reality and contemporaneity. In an interview for Flash Art International, Pistoletto states that when he first started researching in the mid-1950s, the artistic avant-garde was taking two different directions: abstract and figurative. Pistoletto found it hard to express his identity via abstraction, which – according to him – does not belong to Italian artistic heritage. Therefore, he has been devoted to figurative art and most of all, to the representation of the human in all his facets. Pistoletto recounts that his exposure to Italian history of art started when he was only eight years old in his father’s restoration lab where he first encountered frescos and paintings of Italian Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Pistoletto begins his apprenticeship in 1947 and in the same year he also starts painting his first self-portraits, which largely dominate his work until 1962. Echoing Jacques Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage, Pistoletto believes that “Man’s first real figurative experience is the recognition of his own image in the mirror.” In the same way, Lacan believes that the construction of the subject revolves around this first figurative discover of the self through the reflection of its body. Infants from six to eighteen months old start recognizing themselves when they look into a mirror. In other words, they identify with the image that they see in front of them and that they perceive it as their own. However, this final identification is a conquest rather than a pacific accomplishment. Because of infants’ lack of coordination and consciousness, they perceive their body as broken and so they develop a sense of rivalry towards this whole, ideal, body that they see reflected. To solve this alienating tension, the subject finally identifies with the image and the mirror is the instrument that reassembles the fragmented body and turns it into a Subject.

Pistoletto follows an analogous epistemological process and he adapts it to art. As a matter of fact, the first works of Pistoletto are studies of his own image, which he tends to remove from place and time, and then he slowly proceeds towards other forms of human representations that involve also the surrounding environment and an union of the latter with the body (of the artist, but also of the viewer). From 1955 to 1960, he realizes several self-portraits experimenting different techniques, for example painting his face as lava or a sweep of color. In these paintings the face of the artist covers entirely the surface of the canvas and draws the attention of the viewer exclusively on the rough lineaments. In doing so, the context is completely cut off, “isolating the protagonist in order to exalt his human condition.” The mirror is part of the artistic process because it is the tool the artist uses to investigate his image in order to reproduce it. Interestingly enough, a few years later, in 1962, with Mirror Paintings the mirror stops being just an external instrument and becomes the material support of the piece of art.

By minimizing the background, Pistoletto creates a transcendent and timeless aura that turns the face of the artist into a sacred representation, which does not have any relationship with the real world. It is possible to recognize a strong legacy of religious art, which Pistoletto knew well because of his experience as a restorer. Priest (Fig.1), realized in 1957, explicitly recalls Christian iconography. In this case, Pistoletto paints not only a face but also a body, which, nevertheless, is completely overdressed, so that it loses any human feature. The shape of the body is geometrical, reminiscent of medieval wooden altarpieces and not at all mimetic. The body here works almost as a mere frame of the face. The background is consistently absent, so that the figure stands out and remains the only point of interest in the composition.

The relationship between the body and the environment becomes the core of Pistoletto’s art in 1960s. In 1960, following up the series of self-portraits, the artist starts realizing life size paintings on monochrome backgrounds, gold, silver and copper. A good example is Gold Self-portrait (Fig. 2). Like in the previous works, the lineaments are absent and the entire face seems almost scrubbed off the painting, any feature is absent and the body is nothing but a dark shadow standing against a golden background. The subject is completely depersonalized, so it stops impersonating the artist and becomes human. The way Pistoletto outlines his silhouettes is reminiscent of the trends of Italian graphic design of that period and especially Armando Testa’s poster advertisement for Borsalino. It is noteworthy to say that Italy lived an extended period of economic growth after the end of the Second World War, from 1950s until 1960s. The symbol of this nascent consumer society becomes the Fiat 500, an iconic and affordable automobile produced in 1957. Furthermore, Pirelli establishes itself as a leading company in the automobile sector and becomes pivotal for the development of the so-called “Industrial Triangle,” including Milan, Turin and Genoa (cities from where the majority of Italian artists come at that time, including Pistoletto).

One could explain the attention given to the body as a form of individualism, which is one of the consequences of greater disposable income and alienated capitalist society. The Industrial expansion had a massive impact, among all areas, also on advertisement and industrial design, which aimed to present an appealing and saleable product to this new mass of consumers. Pistoletto studied advertisement at Armando Testa’s advertising school and at around twenty years old opened his own advertising agency. As Germano Celant states, advertising plays with the same technique of placing the subject (which is the product to sell) against a neutral background to make it stand out, to be easily recognized and “internalized by the consumer.”

In addition to his work in advertising, another experience that deeply influenced Pistoletto in this phase is the above-mentioned involvement in his father’s workshop, from 1947 to 1958. Ettore Olivero Pistoletto was a painter of frescos and a restorer, for this reason his son Michelangelo entered the world of art at a very young age. In occasion of the exhibition “Ettore P. Olivero: Panoramica d’Artista” at the Zegna Foundation, Pistoletto released an interview in which he extensively discusses the impact that his father had on his art. He remembers one of his father’s masterpieces: a series of works depicting the Manufacture of Wool in the Middle Age, to this day exposed at Zegna’s Wool Mill. Pistoletto expresses his gratitude for having had the opportunity of living, through restoring, the history of art minute by minute.

This legacy emerges also in his conversations with Germano Celant. In an interview with the artist, Celant underscores the similarities between the representation of the human figure in Pistoletto’s early works and the medieval depiction of Christ. Pistoletto considers in both cases the golden background as a dimension of transcendence, which represents a space of elevation that the “man per se” constantly tries to reach. However, God is the only one who can live in a non-space, because of its unearthliness, while men exist and breath only in the real world, to which they are indissolubly tied.

The Present rises from this research on the monochrome backgrounds and represents the transition toward the phase of Mirror Paintings and so, of a major consideration of the body within its environment. The Present is a series of reflecting black-ground paintings realized in 1961. In an unpublished text of 1979, Pistoletto asserts that he did not any longer need a mirror to see his image, he could look at himself directly in the canvas. From 1962, the material that he uses to paint on becomes more reflective, first thanks to aluminum sheets and finally to mirror-finished steel. Pistoletto tries different systems to apply an image to the mirror surface without making the final effect too unreal and to create an amazing trompe l’oeil. He wants to keep a certain coherence and continuity between the picture and the reflection, because his primary intention is to put the viewer inside the painting and to blend the body with the environment.

Henry Moore describing his own art claims that “we make the kind of sculpture we make because we are the shape we are, because of the proportions we have.” In other words, Moore draws an intimate connection between the body of the artist and his way to perceive the external world, making physical feelings the fundament of knowledge, self-knowledge and, most of all, art. Pistoletto reaches the same conclusion that the body influences the way one perceives the world and, vice-versa, that the latter shapes the body and determines its sensations. Accordingly, it is impossible to take the human figure out of its environment. Pistoletto starts exploring new ways to engage the viewer and its world with the work of art, using a new approach to the human figure that consists of active participation rather than mere observation.

The first exhibition of Mirror paintings takes place in 1963 at the Galleria Galatea in Turin. The idea of suggesting a space beyond the canvas and creating a fusion of art and life comes, again, from the history of art. On many occasions Pistoletto has mentioned The Flagellation of Christ by Piero della Francesca (Fig.3) as one of the most significant artworks of his life. According to Pistoletto, Renaissance painters’ use of perspective creates the illusion of an infinite space that goes beyond the limits of the two-dimensions. Piero della Francesca breaks the depiction of the episode into two distinct scenes. The first one on the left concerns the flagellation of Christ itself and the second one involves three people talking, apparently ignoring what it is happening not far from them. Typically, in Medieval art when two scenes were juxtaposed to each other, they needed to be read as a sequence. On the contrary, in this case the use of perspective creates the idea of contemporaneity in addition to the suggestion of a further space. Pistoletto intends to eliminate the hierarchy and separation between artist (creator) and viewer (mere user) by setting the mirror not as window on another world, but as a door that would work as a transition from inside to outside.

Pistoletto tries to achieve the same visual goal of Piero della Francesca by applying the images directly on the mirror, so that when the spectators approach the artwork they will confront their own reflection as well as the painted figures. The bodies that Pistoletto shows on the mirror turn the viewer’s expectations and make him “renegotiate his presence in the room,” borrowing Hatje Cantz’s words. The body suggests a narrative that implies the passage of time and so Pistoletto achieves the paradoxical effect of prolonging the present through the reflection and simultaneously suggesting the past. In fact, while looking at himself in the mirror, the spectator also realizes that the photographic image belongs to the past. Moreover, the fact that the bodies are life-size are a further stimulus for the viewer to identify and relate with them through the mirror. Yet, if one looks closely, the photographic images are slightly bigger than life-size, because Pistoletto takes into consideration the fact that the mirror increases distance and reduces size. Ultimately, the mirrors offer different perspectives that change every time the viewer moves in the real world, gets closer or distances himself. The interaction of the viewer with the mirror constantly produces different results, so that originates a unique and unrepeatable experience.

In 1964, Pistoletto expands the theme of Mirror Painting and creates a series of seven works made of plexiglas, which he exposes at Galleria Speroni in Turin that very same year. Plexiglas brings back to the real space this spatial dynamic that he seeks through the mirror. Pistoletto defines these works as his attempt to physically enter the mirror, or rather to make the picture come out of the mirror into reality. As Peter Selz writes, Pistoletto succeeds in putting the viewer at the center of the work of art, making Futurists’ ambition come true. Specifically, Pistoletto’s Plexiglas mirrors are environments in which the viewer supplies the third dimension and so the body of the viewer works as one of the element in the artwork.

One could interpret this compelling need to engage the viewer as a reaction to what was happening in those years. The mid-1960s represent for Italian history a crucial moment of transition. The rising awareness of the costs of the economic growth in the long run aroused a political polarization and massive turmoils. The “Economic Miracle” had brought not only a certain welfare but it had also accentuated the cultural and economic division between North and South, encouraged corruption, mismanagement of public funds and so the consequent delay of social reforms. Additionally, anti-American and anti-capitalistic movements were spreading everywhere in Europe and most of all anti-war protests against the Vietnam War. The students started occupying the universities in the winter 1967, while the workers began striking in 1969.

Even before the May 1968, the acme of the unrest, Pistoletto had already realized several works aiming to involve the viewer in a critical and political way. His work Vietnam (1962-1965), from the series Mirror Paintings, is an excellent example of the militant subtext that underlaid the relationship between the viewer, the artwork and the reality. Pistoletto uses painted tissue paper and he applies it on polished stainless steel that reflects perfectly whoever stands in front of it. A woman and a man hold a banner on which one can read the letters “TNAM.” The viewers are involved linguistically as well as physically, because they are asked to interpret the slogan. Wolfang Iser in his essay on the interaction between the text and the reader states that “the structure of the blank organizes this participation, revealing simultaneously the intimate connection between this structure and the reading subject.” In other words, the reader (or in this case, the viewer) is asked to fill the gap and to engage with the text by bringing his own experience and imagination, so that he takes an active part in the construction of the work of art itself. Moreover, because of the reflective surface of the artwork, the viewer sees himself next to the demonstrators and as a result he must reflect on his political position on this specific theme. The body becomes suddenly politically charged and its relation with its environment takes the shape of a militant commitment.

In 1993, Pistoletto returns to his reflections on the studies of perspective that inspired him for the conception of Mirror paintings. After having considered Leon Battista Alberti, whose De Pictura constitutes the canon of  proportions and perspective in Western art, Pistoletto starts examining Leonardo Da Vinci. Like Alberti, also Leonardo wanted to establish a mathematical relationship between the human body and the world and to illustrate the idea of man as a microcosm. Art Sign arises from the continuation of an idea that Pistoletto had in 1976, at the time of the Cento mostre nel mese di ottobre. On that occasion the artist conceived a symbol (the Art Sign) that he used to realize several works having that shape. In 1990’s the Art Sign becomes the expression of a precise investigation of the author on the mathematical essence of the world, which he also extends to the human body. This new sign that Pistoletto created is based on the intersection of two triangles that ideally inscribes a human body with raised arms and spread legs. Pistoletto starts from the same mathematical proportions that Leonardo used for his Vitruvian Man, but he arrives to a different visual (and philosophical) conclusion.

As a matter of fact, Pistoletto substitutes the male body with the female one. Protagoras’ statement, which Plato reports in the Teeteto, “Man is the measure of all things,” was the theoretical presupposition of Italian Renaissance. Ancient Greek, differently from English, has two words to indicate the Man: ἀνήρ (male) and ἄνθρώπος (human being). Interestingly enough, Plato employs the term ἄνθρώπος to refer to Protagoras’ philosophy. However, this word has always been interpreted referring to a male figure, as evidenced also by Cesare Cesariano’s illustrations of his translation of Vitruvius’ De Architectura (Fig. 5). In this case the erection of the penis emphasizes even more  the manliness of the human body inscribed in the circle and the androcentric perspective that does not leave room to femininity. Pistoletto challenges the Renaissance tradition and seems to go back to the original Greek root, which could equally refer both to a male or a female, and so by inscribing the woman at the center of this idealistic shape he chooses her as the new “measure” of the world.

The polygon that Pistoletto gets is based on the intersection of two isosceles triangles. The crucial point is the naval. In fact, through it pass the lines of the “umbilical cross,” upon which Pistoletto draws all the other geometric shapes. The meeting of the two triangles occurs on the horizontal axis, which takes the name of “life line.” Pistoletto wants to create a point of interest in this area because he wants to underscore the vital importance of the procreating womb. The navel is the mark of the umbilical cord, which nourishes the fetus and connects it to his mother. The body of the woman reaches a metaphysical status and not only emerges as living symbol of life, but also as “the emblem of the fourth dimension, time.” The time of gestation is a moment that connects the woman to the ancestral past of humanity, back to the first placental mammals, and to the future generations to come.

Because of Pistoletto’s stress on the female generative function, one may argue that the attention given to the female body perpetuates the patriarchal view of the woman who is exclusively as a mother, and not as an individual. However, Pistoletto sees motherhood as a moment that reconcile both sexes, glorifying women as symbol of humanity as such. He explicitly mentions this replacement of the Vitruvian man with the female figure only once  in The Third Paradise, his artistic manifesto. Everywhere else in the text, he simply uses the terms “humanity” or “human being,” equally alluding to both women and men and intentionally choosing terms not relating to any specific gender.

In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir points out how traditionally men are considered the norm, the default, and consequently women are constantly the abnormality, the exception to the rule. In this regard, De Beauvoir exemplifies this condition by mentioning a quote by Aristotle stating that “the female is female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities.” With this in mind, women are so incomplete by definition, and so, because of this inadequacy they are relegated to the eternal condition of being the Other. This duality, Absolute and Other, expresses a conflict between two irreconcilable poles. So, in order to restore a balance between the sexes, the patriarchal state of mind explains femininity exclusively through its connections with men. As a result, women are just daughters, mothers, sisters and they cannot escape this binary logic if they do not want to be banished from society.

In the very end of the conclusion of her essay, De Beauvoir hopes to see fulfilled the promises of parity that the Soviet Revolution proposed, such as an appropriate education for women, same salaries and work conditions for both women and men, marriage and motherhood as free choices. Despite their biological dissimilarity men and women should “unequivocally affirm their brotherhood.” Indeed, De Beauvoir does not intend to eliminate the natural differentiations between men and women, not even to equate women with men in order to allow them more agency. She establishes an ultimate aim that is to consider both males and females first and foremost human beings: “The fact of being a human being is infinitely more important than all the singularities that distinguish human beings.” In the same way, Pistoletto with Art Sign describes and addresses the concept of human as such. He destroys the opposition between norm and otherness and reconciles women and men under the term of humanity.

One could see the replacement of the male body with a female one as a stance on the feminist protests of 1970s (when Pistoletto first conceived Art Sign) and 1990s (when he proposed it again and theorized it). In fact, not by chance, these two periods profoundly impacted the history of feminism in Italy. Among the goals that the feminists achieved throughout 1970s there is the law for the divorce (1970), the family law to remove adultery as a crime (1975) and the law regulating abortion (1978). On the other hand, 1990s were also the year of “tight blue jeans.” In 1992 a man of forty-five years old raped and then blackmailed a girl of eighteen years old. The trial on the whole lasted seven years. Initially, the accused ended up being charged, but successively the Supreme Court of Italy quashed the previous conviction and then ultimately in 1999 the Court of Appeal of Naples acquitted him. The reason the Supreme Court gave to defend the man is that: “it is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.” This event got the attention of the general public and marked a period of intense protests to combat sexual violence.

Pistoletto glorifies the female body as bearer of a universal message and underscores its agency, rather than considering it a mere object of pleasure. To involve the viewer into this project he has realized several installations using the Art Sign. One of his most famous creations of this series is Door (1976-1997) which is nothing but a door frame shaped as the Art Sign. The viewer is invited to stand in front of it and use his or her own body to measure it. Pistoletto sees his Art Sign Door as a threshold to metaphorically cross in order to enter into society. In 2007, Pistoletto realizes another door, based on the Art Sign, which he combines with his beloved mirror surfaces. In Though the Mirror (Fig. 6), a printing of the Italian singer Gianna Nannini stands on a polished stainless steel surface with outstretched arms and legs and impersonates the new Vitruvian Woman.

The choice of a woman like Gianna Nannini makes the impact of this work even stronger. In fact, throughout her career Nannini wrote lyrics that focus on feminist themes, such as  abortion or exploitation of the female body, but she has also given birth to a baby at the age of fifty-six years old, raising debates and controversies on late motherhood. Moreover, the singer has recently come out as gay and married her partner, Carla, with whom she is raising her daughter. Interestingly enough, Pistoletto chooses Nannini, a woman who definitely contrasts the female stereotype the patriarchy dictates, to embody femininity as such, demonstrating that there many different ways to be a true woman and creating a much more inclusive and intersectional idea of humanity.

For Pistoletto it is important that art creates in its viewer a moral engagement. As he states, “now it is time for others, too, to take responsibility for themselves… Everyone having a sign of their own has the key to the door of art, a door that leads to a reserved, intimate, personal space as well as to the space of social meetings” In other words, not only artists have the moral obligation of acting on society to change it and destroy the androcentric ideological construction of patriarchy. Through his art, Pistoletto aims to actively involve the viewer in the artistic process and ultimately raise awareness in his public about the surrounding world.

In his book, Third Paradise, the artist reflects on the importance of the prehistoric imprint of the hand. The gesture of marking the human presence on the wall of a cave is for Pistoletto, the first Art Sign in history. However, since humans at those times (like infants according to Lacan’s theory) were not completely conscious of their body as a whole, they used fragments of it to narrate their life, while today the Art Sign achieves the completeness. In fact, for Pistoletto the main difference between Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man and his Art Sign is that in the Renaissance the world was still a mysterious place to be discovered, while today human beings have reached such a high level of technology and knowledge about the world around them, so they have to project themselves in the future by interrogating themselves on new meanings. What changes is not the body itself, but rather the way the latter interact with its environment and its time. Through the mirror the human being can project him- or her- self into the future by looking back to the past, the same process that Pistoletto followed to conceive and create his art. The mirror, former emblem of narcissism, becomes in Pistoletto’s art a symbol of solidarity and active participation. In fact, the body in Mirror paintings and then Art Sign is charged with a deeper political and social connotation, which will strengthen even more with the Third Paradise. This last phase, which lasts to date, represents the continuation of Art Sign, because it focuses on the same themes of signs, humanity and femininity by experimenting with a different symbol.

In March 2003, Bush and Blair declared preventive war on Iraq. This event profoundly disconcerted the artist, so he felt the urgent need to address the population of the world and create something to indicate the direction to be followed. For Pistoletto, being conscious and reacting to these political and environmental emergencies become essential for every member of humankind, not only artists. The Third Paradise is a reinterpretation of the symbol of the infinite, to which Pistoletto adds a third central circle, which represents the woman’s womb. The female body is at the center of Pistoletto’s artistic discourse and now stands not only for every human being, but for the whole planet Earth as well. As the art historians Robertson and McDaniel state: “an artwork can be about the body without depicting the human form directly.” Therefore, even if the body is not entirely depicted, on the contrary it is reduced to a geometrical form, the symbol of the Third Paradise still represents the human figure, carrying this value of synergy and humanity.

In the Third Paradise, Pistoletto engages in a deep conversation with his audience. Through his art, Pistoletto aims at arousing awareness as well as creating an active and living sense of community. Every individual is connected to each other and also to all the other people who lived in the past or will live in the future. In this regard, Pistoletto makes the example of the cells that proliferate and organize themselves in order for the body to survive. After having reflected on this biological process Pistoletto realizes that life itself as well as society is based on cooperation: “I have deduced the foundation on which to base the social law that I call sharing, or condivisione in Italian.” For this reason, the only future of humanity for Pistoletto consists in cultivating solidarity among men and women as well as achieving a complete harmony between humans and their environment. His art touches upon two of the most relevant themes today: a wider and more inclusive concept of humanity, which is “the union of two signs, female and male” and environmental concern.

A fascinating future research project in the field of History of art, but also, of Environmental studies, would be to focus on how Pistoletto, especially in the Third Paradise, conceives and makes use of the space in order realize his artistic vision. Ultimately, even though Pistoletto finds ingenuous believing that in the garden of Eden, nature spontaneously took care of human beings,  he agree that “in its infancy [humanity] was completely integrated into nature.” So, to respond to the rising level of global unsustainability, Pistoletto created a powerful project such as the Third Paradise, which tries to reenact that long lost communion between human bodies and their world and which is for scholars worth exploring in the years to come.

About the Author 

Viviana Pezzullo holds a Master Degree in Philology from the University of Naples, Italy. She is a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Studies at Florida Atlantic University, where she teaches French, Italian, and World Literature as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Her main areas of expertise are French, Francophone, and Italian Contemporary Literature, with a special emphasis on Life Writing, Women’s Writing, and Visual Arts.
1. Giancarlo Politi and Helena Kontova. “Michelangelo Pistoletto: Inside and Outside the Mirror.” Flash Art International 43 (March/April 2010) : 71.
2. Germano Celant and Michelangelo Pistoletto. Pistoletto (New York: Rizzoli, 1989), 19.
3. Jacques Lacan. “Le stade du miroir comme formateur de la fonction du je, telle qu’elle nous est révélée dans l’expérience psychanalytique.” Revue Française de Psychanalyse 13.4 (1949) : 449.
4. Celant and Pistoletto, Pistoletto, 17.
5. Pistoletto, Michelangelo, Jeremy Lewison, Pascal Gielen, and Michael Auping. Michelangelo Pistoletto: Mirror Paintings (New York: Distributed Art Pub Incorporated, 2011), 9.
6. Celant and Pistoletto, Pistoletto, 17.
7. Michelangelo Pistoletto ricorda il padre Ettore P. Olivero,”, last modified October 25, 2010.
8. Celant and Pistoletto, Pistoletto, 33.
9. Michelangelo Pistoletto, “Il rinascimento dell’arte” (unpublished manuscript, 1979). Accessed November 18, 2017.
10. Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel, Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art After 1980 (New York – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 168.
11. Michelangelo Pistoletto. The Third Paradise (Venezia: Marsilio, 2010), 66.
12. Pistoletto, Lewison and al., Mirror Paintings, 23.
13. Ibid.
14. Celant and Pistoletto, Pistoletto, 170.
15. Wolfgang Iser. “Interaction Between Text and Reader,” in The Book History Reader, ed. Finkelstein, David and Alistair McCleery (London: Routledge, 2002), 295.
16. Vitor Murtinho. “Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man Drawing: A New Interpretation Looking at Leonardo’s Geometric Constructions.” Nexus Network Journal 17.2 (2015) : 508.
17. Pistoletto, Third Paradise, 70.
18. Ibid.
19. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, transl. Howard Madison Parshley (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), xvi.
20. Ibid. 732.
21. Ibid. 728.
22. Benedetta Faedi. “Rape, Blue Jeans, and Judicial Developments in Italy.” The Columbia Journal of European Law Online 11 (2009) : 15.
23. Pistoletto, Third Paradise, 16.
24. Michelangelo Pistoletto. La Porta dello Specchio, catalogue of the exhibition, ed. International cultural project ARS AEVI, Sarajevo, 2001, p. 78. Accessed November 19, 2017.
25. Pistoletto, Third Paradise, 71.
26. Pistoletto, The Third Paradise, 71.
27. Ibid., 70.
28. Robertson and McDaniel, Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art After 1980, 76.
29. Pistoletto, Third Paradise, 24-25.
30. Ibid., 88.
31. Ibid., 56.

Fig. 1. Pistoletto, Michelangelo. Priest, 1957. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 120 cm. Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella. Accessed November 18, 2017.

Fig. 2. Pistoletto, Michelangelo. “Gold Self-portrait,” 1960. Oil, acrylic and gold on canvas, 200 x 150 cm. Turin: Artist’s Collection. Accessed November 6, 2017.

Fig. 3. Della Francesca, Piero. The Flagellation of Christ, 1459-1460. Oil and tempera on panel, 58.4 cm × 81.5 cm. Urbino, Galleria Nazionale delle Marche. Accessed November 6, 2017.


Fig.4. Pistoletto, Michelangelo. Vietnam, 1962-1965. Painted tissue paper on polished stainless steel, cm 220 x 120. Houston, The Menil Collection. Accessed November 6, 2017.

Fig. 5. Cesariano, Cesare. The human body inscribed in a square and a circle (Second Vitruvian Man), 1521. Woodcut. London: The Warburg Institute Library. Accessed November 6, 2017.

Fig. 6. Pistoletto, Michelangelo and Gianna Nannini. Through the Segno Arte, 2007. Sublimation printing on polished stainless steel. 250 x 125 cm. Biella, Fondazione Pistoletto. Accessed November 11, 1017.
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