Macabre dance

You are the guest of honour at the dance we are playing for you. Round one dance and then another. And you are no longer the lady of time.

Angelo Branduardi

Between 1963 and 1964 Dady Orsi produces a considerable amount of works on paper and canvas, executed with the most disparate techniques. Drawings, collages, pastels, and tempera paintings in various combinations, where the protagonists are young girls inspired by Picasso’s reworking of Velazquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas in the late 1950s. However, the rarefied synthesis of forms also reveals connections with the style of Giacometti and Melotti. Here the artist compares himself with the great Master of Art choosing a tender and childlike, almost disarming, approach. The Macabre Dance was born from this copious production, a cycle of drawings executed on 9 April 1964 and given to his wife Megy on her 26th birthday. The succession of images tells the story of how the Menina, having met Death, does not flee but dances with her. In this cycle, the two characters are always depicted with the same strokes, as one does when illustrate a story, but they present a great variety of technical and chromatic combinations. The pastel-coloured panels have a particularly modern colour scheme: the pinks, bright blues and light yet vigorous lilacs are unusual in the art of the time; they would come to the fore later – in the 1970s and 1980s in post-modern design. If the medieval representations of the dance macabre show the triumph of death over humanity, in this case the artist decides to change the ending and meaning of the story through an ironic détournement. In the last drawing, death appears as a puppet moved by the girl’s hands. Death is thus defeated and disarmed. There is a conflict in this cycle: on the one hand, the artist’s admiration for the grandiose painting of Picasso and Velazquez and, on the other, his anti-heroic attitude, expressed through Giacometti’s subtlety and Melotti’s lightness. Instead of the classical figure of the warrior hero, Orsi prefers a figure of a young girl with a vaguely astonished grace.