Art After War: Paola and Lorenza Mazzetti
Reservations: https://www.magazzino.art Magazzino Italian Art, in collaboration with the Centro Primo Levi New York, presents a program focused on the resilient Mazzetti sisters. On August 3, 1944, Paola and Lorenza, twins
Magazzino Italian Art, in collaboration with the Centro Primo Levi New York, presents a program focused on the resilient Mazzetti sisters. On August 3, 1944, Paola and Lorenza, twins adopted by Robert Einstein and Nina Mazzetti, witnessed the murder of their family by the Nazis. For the remainder of their lives, they channeled their experience into a profound artistic expression that spanned painting, filmmaking, writing, and psychoanalysis. The program at Magazzino will combine discussions led by Alessandro Cassin and Davide Spagnoletto, alongside photographs, documents, and video excerpts. Referencing the After Images exhibition at the Memoriale della Shoah in Milan, the program will reconstruct historical events and prompt introspection on the impact and diverse manifestations of memory in shaping life’s trajectories.
Ali Smith on Lorenza Mazzetti (from the novel Summer, Hamish Hamilton, London 2020)
So, when she’s in her early twenties, at the start of the 1950s, Lorenza Mazzetti arrives in England as part of a group of students invited here from the University of Florence on an initiative to bring people from mainland Europe to help with work on British farms.
She’s the filmmaker whose images I described earlier, the image of the men who can’t speak or hear crossing the rubble conversing with each other and the image of the man with two suitcases on the edge of the high building.
The Italian students land in Dover and first thing that happens is a thorough police search of each person bodily, then of each person’s luggage.
The police take Mazzetti’s passport from her. When they give it back she is astonished to see that it’s been stamped with the words Undesirable and Alien.
As it happens Mazzetti will be useless at farm work, too week and to nervy. With hindsight it’s clear that this is because she’s had quite a war: in 1944, when she was in her teens, a group of Nazi officers arrived at the house in Tuscany where she and her. Twin sister Paola were being brought up as part of the family of their father’s sister, Nina: the Mazzetti twins’ mother had died not long after giving birth, and so far in their lives they’d been passed from person to person, family to family. But now they were finally home, living with Nina and her husband, Robert Einstein, who was a cousin of Albert Einstein, and their slightly older cousins, Luce and Anna Maria.
That summer the Germans in Italy were being driven back by the oncoming Allied forces. One beautiful sunny day the Wehrmacht officers came to the house and when they couldn’t find Robert, who’d decamped to the woods because he knew they were after him, they did two things,
They wrecked the house.
They killed all the Einsteins they could find—
Nina and her daughters.
They decided not to kill Lorenza Mazzetti or her sister because their surname wasn’t Einstein.
The twins, who’d been locked away with other villagers while the killing happened, came back into the house to the dead bodies of their cousins and their aunt.
Their uncle came. Back to the bodies too. Not long afterwards he committed suicide.
In England, now, Mazzetti is as close to nervous breakdown as you might imagine given such a history. She infuriates the farmer to whose farm she’s been assigned by not being strong enough to carry heavy sacks, by not being good enough at picking the bad potatoes off the conveyor belt, by burning the dinner she’s meant to be cooking for the other students and by not being fast enough at mucking out a manure heap.
He throws her off the farm.
So she gets herself to London to find a job and somewhere to live.
But something deeply fractured in her means that each job she takes results in a kind of surreality.
A woman employs her as a live-in maid in the suburbs but ends up throwing all her stuff out into the road, calling the police and accusing her of stealing. (Later Mazzetti discovers it’s she who’s been being stolen from by the woman.)
A lovely happy family in a lovely happy house in the city give her a maid’s position and welcome her warmly into their lovely family. But in the lovely happy family she is suddenly even more surrounded by the ghosts, standing and sitting and walking all around her, silent, smiling, bleeding from the places the teenage Mazzetti saw the holes the bullets had made in them.
With my suitcase I ran away in search of some unhappiness.