Forming part of the pre-programme of “Borders – Between Order and Chaos”, this exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversary of D’Annunzio’s occupation of Rijeka by personifying the city as a woman and alluding to his many mistresses who were left physically and emotionally drained after he ended their relationship – just like the city of Rijeka.

D’ Annunzio’s Martyr is also the first notable exhibition to be included in the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture programme.  The authors of the exhibition are Tea Perinčić and Ana–Maria Milčić, with design by Sanjin Kunić and Nikolina Radić Štivić.

The European Capital of Culture project promotes the values of modern Europe, united and strong in its unity, as opposed to historical and contemporary fascism. The D’Annunzio’s Martyr exhibition thus exemplifies the values represented by the European Capital of Culture 2020 project.

The exhibition opens on Thursday, 12 September at 7 pm and continues throughout the duration of the European Capital of Culture in Rijeka project until 31 January 2021.

Confronting Rijeka with a difficult period in history

Gabriele D’Annunzio, the controversial Italian military commander and precursor to fascist ideology, occupied Rijeka with his paramilitary forces on 12 September 1919 and wilfully proclaimed the city a part of the Kingdom of Italy. D’Annunzio was invited to arrive and stay in Rijeka by the local irredentists, who advocated the right to proclaim Rijeka an Italian city.  This soon proved severely detrimental to the cultural and economic stability of Rijeka at the time. All of a sudden, an exceptionally multi-ethnic city denied rights to anyone who did not identify as Italian or opposed the idea of a uniformly Italian Rijeka.  Croats were particularly targeted by D’Annunzio’s paramilitary forces in Rijeka.

The D’Annunzio’s Martyr exhibition at the Maritime and History Museum of the Croatian Littoral Rijeka provides a unique view of his time in Rijeka from the perspective of women who lived in Rijeka at the time, those who came there from Italy with or following D’Annunzio and those who were his lovers.

Rijeka is also examined as a female figure in certain works by futuristic artists, such as Marinetti, Carra and Buzzio.  The accompanying iconography also includes reproductions of caricatures from the then published satirical Croatian magazine Koprive (“Nettles”) that depict Rijeka, Italy and the former Yugoslavia as women. In this exhibition, Rijeka is personified as a female martyr, in the same vein that the Italian futurists used the image of a woman to portray Rijeka at the time.

The exhibition is held at the White Salon, which was damaged during combat between the regular Italian army and D’Annunzio’s forces on the so-called Bloody Christmas of 1920. The damaged area of the White Salon is also included in the exhibition. In Italy at the time, fascism paved the way for imperialism, which nearly destroyed the entire nation.

Borders – Between Order and Chaos

The D’Annunzio’s Martyr exhibition is part of a thematic exhibition cycle on borders that will resume with an important large-scale exhibition entitled Violins Above Borders / Stradivari in Rijeka – Kresnik and Cremona, and conclude with the central and largest exhibition Borders Between Order and Chaos.

The cycle is an integral part of the Times of Power flagship of the European Capital of Culture programme. As part of the flagship, Rijeka will introduce Europe to its exciting history permeated with powerful forces that claimed and ruled over the city. However, it is also a European history of conquerors and the conquered and within the context of the cultural programme, it is a flagship that showcases the creative and destructive power that influences cultural and artistic development.