I Madonnari: Italian street artists

Take over the chicest shopping streets in Europe

In a celebration of Italy and its traditions, Dolce&Gabbana has invited street artists to let loose their creativity outside some of its boutiques around the world.

While on holiday in Italy, especially in summer months it is common to stumble upon beautiful chalk paintings which embellish the country’s already beautiful streets and piazzas. These pieces of art have been designed by so called Madonnari. The Italian Madonnari are an ancient form of artists whose origin has been traced to the sixteenth century. Many were itinerant artists, who travelled around the country working on the many monuments which were being built during the Renaissance, and who lent their artistic vision to builders to help visualize the plans of the architects, by sketching engravings or entire facades on the ground for the builders to see. When the work was completed, they needed to find another way to make a living, and thus often would recreate the paintings from the church onto the pavement, many of which depicting a favourite subject of the time, the Madonna, thus the name Madonnari. These travelling artists would travel to move through provinces or towns according to the festival calendar to join in the festivities and make a living from observers who would throw coins if they approved of the artist’s work. For centuries, many Madonnari were folk artists, reproducing simple images with crude materials such as tiles, coal, and chalk, and due to the transient nature of their work remained anonymous. Others, such as El Greco, would go on to become household names of the Renaissance.

This form of art however has been exported beyond its country of origin and absorbed in different cultures. In fact, the origins of modern street painting can be traced to Britain, when pavement artists were found all over the United Kingdom and by 1890 it was estimated that more than 500 artists were making a full-time living from pavement art in London alone and the first recorded street-painting competition and ‘festival’ was held in London in 1906.

In Italy however, in 1972 the first ‘Italian’ International Street Painting Competition was held in Grazie di Curtatone, in the province of Mantua, as a part of festival celebrating the Assumption with the streets of the city being turned over to the festival. Today the festival is called Fiera delle Grazie and lasts 4 days around day of the Assumption of the Virgin on the 15th August.

Street painting and festivals celebrating the art have been exported beyond Europe, with some of the most famous in Santa Barbara in California, Lake Worth in Florida and Festival Bella Via in Monterrey, Mexico.

Dolce&Gabbana have embraced this ancient Italian (and international) art and in keeping with the inspiration of the Summer 2016 fashion show collection the brand invites street artists to paint outside boutiques to support the #Italiaislove events.

The first event of its kind took place in Milan on the 26th February, where Valentina Sforzini, the youngest Madonnara in Italy, a passionate woman behind her art, who hails from Curtatone, the home of Madonnari, set to work on an iconic image from the collection in Via della Spiga (unfortunately the weather was not on her side).

Street artist Jon Hicks was drafted to lend his art to the New Bond Street #Italiaislove event on March 3rd and welcomed guests to the exclusive London location with a pretty cartoon image which sums up the collection’s inspiration. Interested in finding out more and seeing a street artist at work with your own eyes? Local street artists will be on hand to create stunning street art on Calle Ortega y Gasset in Madrid on the 10th March, then in Barcellona on the 17th of the same month on Paseo de Garcia and finally in Berlin on 18th March on Kurfurstendamm.



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