Francesco Vezzoli: Sacrilegio

The Artist Casts Supermodels and His Mother as Madonnas in His New Show

In his latest visual mash-up of history and celebrity, Milanese artist Francesco Vezzoli enlisted 90s supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista and Stephanie Seymour to portray Renaissance-era Madonnas in the style of Da Vinci, Botticelli and Bellini. The series marks the artist's first solo exhibition in New York, Sacrilegio, which sees Gagosian’s Chelsea location converted into a chapel. Today we feature an exclusive still from the show’s video component: a reinterpretation of Pinturicchio’s 15th-century painting “Madonna with Writing Child.” The thinly veiled self-portrait pictures “the child” learning needlework (one of Vezzoli’s trademark mediums) alongside the artist’s mother, who lipsyncs to a tune by singing nun Soeur Sourire. NOWNESS quizzed the artist on history, sacrilege and the trendiness of motherhood. 

If you could be any historical figure who would you choose?

I would pick Marcel Proust but he lived shortly. He’s immortal in the books, but he was mortal too early. I don’t know... Napoleon!

What era would you like to live in?

The '70s. I would like to be Napoleon in the '70s.

What would you change, if anything, about the past?

Social injustice. Whenever you say you want to be Napoleon or Julius Caesar you can’t help thinking that when those people were alive social injustice was huge. Now, it’s a bit less.

And the present?

Nightclubs—they’re terrible. 

What would be the most sacrilegious thing you could do? 

To dishonor my family. Because they love me and they made me and they nurture me. 

If a Freudian were to give a reading on your version of "Madonna with Writing Child" what would they say?

A badly repressed Oedipus complex, unsuccessfully repressed.

Is there any Renaissance-era craft or artform that is due for a comeback?

I’m re-launching Madonnas because maternity and parenthood seems to be the new Fendi bag. Everybody’s obsessed. Once upon a time the biggest movie star, Elizabeth Taylor, had seven husbands, and now the biggest movie star, Angelina Jolie, has seven kids.

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