Il Duce

About the Images

The following citations are for the images shown above, left to right, illustrating books and other works included in the exhibit “Italian Life Under Fascism” in the Department of Special Collections in 1998.

  1. Orlando Danese. Mussolini. Mantua: Editore Franco Paladino, 1922.
    • This work traces Mussolini from the early Socialist days to the year of his seizure of power, and hails him as Italy’s man of destiny. A rare photo shows a gaunt Mussolini as a soldier in World War I.
  2. Benito Mussolini. The Cardinal’s Mistress. Trans. Hiram Motherwell. New York: Albert & Charles Boni, 1928.
    • Mussolini wrote this historical novel, set in sixteenth-century Trent, in 1909 when he was secretary of the Socialist trade union in that northern city, still part of the Austrian Empire. It was one of only two forays by Mussolini into the writing of fiction; the other was a short story written at about the same time, a morbid tale of suicide and betrayal. Born and raised in a family of modest means, his father a blacksmith, Mussolini received little formal schooling. A tattered Italian translation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables mysteriously appeared in Mussolini’s village when he was twelve years old and is credited as being a profound influence in his young life. Its mark is reflected in The Cardinal’s Mistress. On loan from a private collection.
  3. Paolo Orano. Mussolini da Vicino. Rome: Istituto di Organizzazione e Consulenza Bancaria, 1928.
    • A book describing Mussolini and his early years as Fascist leader. Factual content is mixed with glorification of his personal traits. A curious chapter describes a visit to “Mr. Mussolini” by the actor Jackie Coogan, “the most famous child in the world.” The author would become a literary leader of the Italian anti-semitic campaign.
  4. Grande Manifestazione Aerea. Turin, July 1932.
    • Special publication devoted to the air show at Turin on 3 July 1932, one of many celebrations of the tenth anniversary of the Fascist assumption of power. A full-page photograph shows Mussolini as a pilot, another side of the all-competent leader. A large table lists all Italian transatlantic flights from 1919 to 1930. A year after this air show, Italo Balbo would lead his squadron of sea planes to Chicago, the first successful transatlantic crossing of its kind.
  5. Leo Pollini. Mussolini. Padre del Popolo Italiano. [Milan]: Ambrosiana Editoriale, ca. 1935.
    • A highly romanticized biography, with illustrations in color by the well-known Fascist artist Bruno da Osimo, and typical of books on Mussolini in this period. The author describes the Duce’s early years and the circumstances that helped develop his character as a leader.
  6. “Giovinezza!” Inno Trionfale del Partito Nazionale Fascista. Music by Giuseppe Blanc; lyrics by Salvator Gotta. Milan: Carisch Editori, 1939.
    • The national anthem of Italian Fascism extols the giovinezza, the youth of the Fascist party and its future. The song is accompanied by a piano score; on the cover is a full-page sketch of Mussolini by the artist Riva.

Additional Exhibit Items

The following items were part of the original exhibit in the Department of Special Collections but are not pictured above.

  • “Marga.” Aneddoti e Giudizi su Mussolini. Florence: R. Bemporad & Figli, 1925.
    • A collection of over one hundred anecdotes about Mussolini and his life as leader of the Fascist party, intended to give the impression of his extraordinary intelligence and ability. Marga or Zia (Aunt) Marga is the author of several children’s books about war and about the Fascist party.
  • Raffaello de Rensis. Mussolini Musicista. Mantua: Edizioni Paladino, 1927.
    • Typical for the early period of Fascism, this special issue of the monthly Mussolinia glorifies Mussolini and presents him as an expert in almost all things. The journal opens with full-page photographs of Mussolini posing with famous composers and playing the violin, and describes his involvement with musicians and musical events.
  • Corriere della Sera. Milan, 26 October 1932.
    • Overwhelming enthusiasm from the Milanese masses greets the Duce, and the “lapidary” words of the “incomparable” head of state announce that the twentieth century will be the century of Fascism and of Italian might.
  • Emil Ludwig. Colloqui con Mussolini. Milan: Mondadori, 1932.
    • It is unclear how much the interviews conducted by this famous German publicist in April 1932 contributed to spreading Mussolini’s fame. The work seems to have been published only in German (also in 1932) and Italian. That the Duce should appear in a favorable light was guaranteed by the fact that the text had been submitted to him for approval before publication. By agreeing to the interviews, Mussolini must have felt that he was joining good company: Ludwig’s previous biographical studies were of Goethe, Napoleon, the Emperor William II, Bismarck, Lincoln, and Jesus Christ. The dust jacket shows Mussolini’s study in the Palazzo Venezia in Rome. On loan from a private collection.
  • Margherita Sarfatti. Dux. 15th ed. Milan: Mondadori, 1932.
    • The authoritative biography (first published in 1926) of the early years of Mussolini, written by his mistress. Sarfatti was highly educated, wrote extensively on art and literature, spoke several languages, and exercised a major influence on Mussolini. She came from a prominent Jewish Venetian family. A recent book by Philip Cannistraro and Brian Sullivan entitled Il Duce’s Other Woman (New York: William Morrow, 1993) documents her life and relationship with Mussolini.
  • Corriere della Sera. Milan, 20 May 1940.
    • This issue, which appeared twenty days before Italy would enter the war at Germany’s side, describes an enormous rally in Milan where Galeazzo Ciano, Italy’s foreign minister, praised the Duce (his father-in-law) and promised that the nation would be faithful to its commitments and great destiny. These are clearly allusions to the impending declaration of war against France.
  • “Spartacus.” Claretta Fiore del Mio Giardino. Le Avventure di Claretta e Maria Petacci con Benito Mussolini, detto “Bibi.” Azione Letteraria Italiana “approvata dal P.W.B.,” n.d. but after the fall of Mussolini.
    • Satirical account of the Duce’s affair with Claretta Petacci, twenty-nine years his junior, who stuck with him to the bitter end. Her entire family, including her sister Maria, an aspiring actress whose career was advanced by Mussolini, profited from her long affair with him.
  • Le Donne di Mussolini con 82 Illustrazioni. Milan: C.E.A. [1964].
    • Scores of illustrations of Mussolini and his mistresses, and great detail about his romantic relationships with Italian, French, and German women. Well after the end of the war, small, little-known presses continued to print romanticized versions of many aspects of Mussolini’s life. The author has chosen to remain anonymous.
  • Benito Mussolini. Il Mio Diario di Guerra. Naples: Pagano, 1995.
    • Complete edition of all the articles Mussolini wrote for the paper Il Popolo d’Italia from 28 December 1915 to 13 February 1917, in which he exaggerates greatly his involvement in World War I.