Cinzia Ruggeri “la règle du jeu?” at Galleria Federico Vavassori, Milan
It is not a joke, that of taxes, but De Pisis had taken lightly the investigation – to which he lent himself as a lamb devoted to sacrifice. Slowly, with subtle and very kind questions, the tax agent was able to get the painter to declare what he wanted to know.
De Pisis did not know why he asked him if he could sell his paintings, how much they cost and how many he could do in a day; if he is known in the world of art, if he is sought after among the multitude of painters. He always answers in the affirmative, even when asked if he has servants, if he owns buildings, gondolas, if he has money in the bank.
– Oh! I’ll do my best, you know! – said his inquisitor, saying goodbye in a very friendly manner.
De Pisis signed the interrogation, convinced that he had settled the chapter of taxes in the best possible way, and he trusts, flattered by his know-how, that with his friend Cardazzo, he would only have to pay only a small sum, which wouldn’t bother him at all. But it wasn’t! He crashed in full. Shortly afterwards he received a file with an injunction to pay one million a year, with retroactive effect of three years!
De Pisis couldn’t sleep thinking about what awaited him. He returned to Cardazzo in good time and let out his indignation. After thinking about it, Cardazzo turns to one of his skilled prosecutors and presents the case to him. The latter, incidentally, had some experience in the matter, and often dealt with appeals with the commission, so was well respected.
– Listen, De Pisis – he tells him – when you will be called back to the hearing, don’t say a word, and don’t answer any questions. Leave it to me, and you’ll see that we’ll fix everything. –
On the scheduled day, De Pisis presented himself elegantly, with a flower in his buttonhole, as his defender had suggested that he dress in a bohemian style. First of all, his attorney makes a detailed examination of the modest conditions in which so many painters live since they can hardly sell. He speaks in particular of De Pisis, and describes him as a mediocre painter who is barely able to live from his art. To validate his assertions, he presented a painting by De Pisis to the commission, and addressing the President, not familiar with modern art, he exclaimed:
– Excuse me, sir, would you ever buy a painting like this? –
After observing the painting, the subject of which he confusingly grasps, the President replies with a smile:
– No, of course not! –
De Pisis jerks bitterly, and murmurs:
– Idiot! –
Things, however, were getting better when at some point the President turned to De Pisis and asked him if he had any titles.
– Sure – he replied instantly.
His attorney suddenly interrupts him, and tries to save the situation:
– Behold, you see, Mr. President, De Pisis is so unaware of what is being dealt with in this place, that he believed that you were asking for titles of nobility! In fact, he is a nobleman! –
– No, no – De Pisis insists, interrupting him in turn – it is true that I own noble titles, but I had understood very well the question of the President. In fact, I own many government bonds, deposited in my safe deposit box at the Milan Credit Bank! –
The prosecutor had no more need for arguments and De Pisis was taxed for eight hundred thousand lire a year, which were then paid for by Cardazzo and the collector Pospisil, half each, in exchange for paintings of course.
Giorgio Zamberlan, Il mercante in camera, Vallecchi Editore, Firenze, 1959
At Galleria Federico Vavassori, Milan
Until 9 August 2019