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CHELES Luciano, GIACONE Alessandro (dir.)

Il ritratto e il potere. Immagini della politica in Francia e in Italia nel Novecento

Pisa, Pacini Editore, 2017, 296 p., 18 euros.

The portrait is a figurative genre that has always played an important role in political communication. Its potential effectiveness resides in its ability to make absent people present, which confers politicians the gift of ubiquity. The commonplace view is that an image faithfully reproduces the subject it refers to (“photography never lies”) ; however, pose, facial expression, sartorial style, colours, props and background are all carriers of meaning which can subliminally influence the onlooker. Graphic artists and spin doctors all too readily exploit these features to mythologize their subjects. The portrait is notably one of the key instruments of the propaganda of totalitarian regimes. However, it also dominates the propaganda of democratic countries, as a result of the strong personalization and spectacularisation of politics. The vigorous poster and website election campaigns of Silvio Berlusconi, Ségolène Royal, Marine Le Pen and Matteo Renzi are cases in point. This volume of essays deals with political portraiture in France and Italy, from the early 20th century to the present. It investigates official portraits (the images diffused by political parties via posters and the web), as well as satirical ones and the images of public figures in the press. Special attention is devoted to issue of gender : three essays look at how female politicians and the First Ladies are represented in the media.

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