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Giuseppe Tucci's Tibet
Photographs from the 1930s expeditions
11 May – 10 June 2017

Last summer during a trip to beautiful Marche—a region in central Italy—I decided to stop over in Macerata, the birthplace of both Matteo Ricci (1552-1610)—a missionary and scientist who was received at the Chinese imperial court, still considered a great scholar—and Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984), the most important Italian Tibetologist.

As early as the 1970s Tucci's books had inspired my trips to India and Nepal and in Macerata I hoped to be able to find information about the man, not just the scholar. Before reaching Macerata I had stopped by at Elcito, a handful of houses perched on the mountainside at an elevation of 800m with a breathtaking view. Ambling along the three narrow streets of the village I had seen on the walls of some houses the photographs of a group of Tibetan monks in their monastic robes and with traditional musical instruments. The information I could glean from three elderly people I met there was scanty, and I was quite surprised to find traces of Tibet in such a remote place. But chance or destiny proved to be even more unexpected when in Macerata I was told that there was a lawyer who was fond of Tucci, and that indeed he had brought Tibetan monks to Elcito. Gianfranco Borgani, a Tucci researcher, had known Tucci's wife, and she had allowed him to scan some photographs taken during her husband's expeditions. In 2004 Borgani had organised a series of events on the occasion of the twenty years since the death of the celebrated scholar, one of which was an exhibition of those very pictures.

This exhibition was born from that chance encounter.

Giuseppe Tucci was the most illustrious Italian scholar of Tibetan art and religion. His numerous books—both travel narratives and academic studies—are known all over the world and continue to be essential in order to understand the attraction exerted on the West by this extraordinary, profound culture. Between 1928 and 1956 Tucci made eight expeditions to Tibet and six to Nepal, translated the fundamental religious texts of Tibetan Buddhism, and in 1957 founded the Museo Nazionale di Arte Orientale in Rome.

The exhibition presents 20 black-and-white photographs taken in the 1930s during his exploration trips to Ladakh (India) and Tibet. These images show the majestic landscapes of the “Roof of the World” but also the fascination of centuries-old customs.

Tuesday 30 May at 18.30, Alice Crisanti—a researcher of Tucci's life and works— will talk about him in the lecture hall of the Cardinale Giovanni Colombo University, piazza San Marco 2, Milan.

Renzo Freschi

Renzo Freschi Oriental Art,
Via Gesù, 17
Milan 20121

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