The Flesh and the Bones

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The decadence of noble families, their roles, and the decay of the spaces and environments where nobility once flourished are not the subject of this work. These elements are simply instruments exploited in order to isolate a significant, and at the same time, superficial decline: a visual one.

Today, the villas of Sicily’s former nobility exist in various states and assorted dimensions: ones in which time and history have slowly introduced new features that have over time have merged with those of the past.
I wonder if, in this scenario, the spaces have the ability to communicate their identity themselves; if our perception may be enough to recall a story that our imagination already knows, or whether this is perhaps suggested by references and values deposited in those environments over time. From these questions comes the attempt to reach, or at least to approach, the identity of the aristocratic spaces that inhabit Sicily today and that are also, inhabited by today’s Sicily. It is an attempt that takes its shape in distance and silence, aiming to deprive the depicted places of authoritativeness and finally, disconnecting them from the reason why they once existed.

In the photographs, the imagery surrounding the sites is considered and handled as a lifeless body. Organs have been removed, as have every kind of functionality and energy of that body. What remains is seen as a bone structure. The flesh and the bones — now devoid of purpose and needs — remain true and consistent, creating a fertile base for new pictures and stories, probable and imagined.


“The Flesh and the Bones” is an observation of the silent and evocative atmosphere of eighteenth century gardens, city palaces, villas and mansions in and around Palermo, Sicily. It emerged from a desire to investigate and create a new way to see these historic and artistic sites, that are today, often abandoned and longing for renovation.

The photographer Roberto Boccaccino was inspired by an imaginary topography of the Sicilian nobility from the 50th anniversary of the Palme d’Or awarded movie “Il Gattopardo” by Luchino Visconti (based on the novel of the same name by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa). Today in Sicily, these former palaces have been converted into museums, municipal offices, universities, private estates and special-event sites.

At one time, the dignified elegance and the beautiful harmony of the gardens and villas communicated the power of the families that inhabited them. Now, only the startling contrast between noble and mundane remains, causing an alienating effect. The sourness of the estates’ current circumstances is evident: the breath of life is halted, leaving an unsettling atmosphere. Only flesh and bones remain from a past that aspires to stay unchanged.

Giulia Scalia