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Banti, Anna

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    Full Name: Lopresti Longhi, Lucia

    Other Names:

    • Lucia Longhi
    • Lucia Lopresti Longhi
    • Lucia Lopresti

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 27 June 1895

    Date Died: 02 September 1985

    Place Born: Florence, Tuscany, Italy

    Place Died: Ronchi dei Legionari, Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Italy

    Subject Area(s): film (discipline)


    Author, art scholar, cinema critic, and translator; wife pupil of the art historian Roberto Longhi. Banti was born Lucia Lopresti. Her father, a lawyer for the railways, Luigi-Vincenzo, was an avid literature enthusiast and her mother was Gemma Benin, both of them of Calabrian background. She attended the Liceo Tasso di Roma (a lyceum or high school), where in 1914 she encountered the young art historian (and future husband) Roberto Longhi. She continued to study art history at the University in Rome under the eminent Adolfo Venturi, who had also been Longhi’s mentor. Venturi supervised her thesis on the seventeenth-century artist and dealer Marco Boschini (1602–1681). A subsequent 1919 essay by her on Boschini in Venturi’s own publication, L’Arte, was noted favorably the the art philosopher Benedetto Croce (1856-1952). She married Longhi in 1924. By 1930 she had adopted the pseudonym “Anna Banti”, the name of a beloved relative, to distinguish herself from her husband. Her first article under that name, “Barbara e la morte”, was expanded into a book in 1937.

    One of her husband’s students in Bologna where he taught was the young (future film director) Pier Paolo Passolini (1922-1975). Passolini and Banti became close friends. A book by Banti, Itinerario di Paolina, appeared in 1937, During WWII, Banti continued to write novels, clearly propaganda for Fascism and American motives. The most prominent of these, Sette Lune (Seven Moons) was issued in 1941. As the war progressed, Banti transcribed a novel to a screenplay romance film called Sissignora (Yes, Madam) in 1942. The following year Pasolini wrote an evaluative article on her, terming her work “Mannerist”, meaning her writings focused on re-enactment of painting. While the war still ensued, Banti turned to researching a historical novel about the female baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi. The first draft, however, was destroyed during Allied bombing in 1944 and she was forced to rewrite the manuscript. It was published after the war, 1947, as Artemisa. It became her most important book, popularizing a heretofore obscure painter.

    The post-war years saw Banti and her husband founding Paragone, a journal for art and literature in 1950; her husband was editor. The same year she published her translation of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room which resulted in the popularization of Woolf in Italy. Banti also translated French authors such as Colette. Her most feminist publication were her collected short stories, Le donne muoiono (The Women Die) which appeared in 1951. Banti returned to art history; brief biographies of artists followed, Fra Angelico and) Lorenzo Lotto (both 1953), Diego Velásquez (1955), Claude Monet (1956) as well as others into the 1960s. In addition she maintained a log-running cinema column in the magazine L’approdo letterario. After Longhi’s death in 1970, Banti assumed the editorship of Paragone until 1985 when she divided the editorship between art and literature, the former to Mina Gregori (b. 1924).

    Banti’s Artemisia claims importance because the novel format introduced the then obscure artist to a wide public. Her husband had written a 1916 article on the painter, followed by a brief discussion by Hermann Voss in his Die Malerei Des Barock In Rom of 1924. Like many of Banti’s novels it has autobiographical similarities. An early feminist, Banti treated the obscure artist–remembered mostly for the documents of her rape trial–in what would emerge after the 1970s as a watermark for feminist studies. In the novel Gentileschi is nourished by the influential Genoan noblewoman, Pietra Spinola. Writing Artemesia Banti struggled between her identities as art historian and creative writer. Overshadowed as an art historian by husband she came to terms with in her semi-autobiographical novels, the last of which Un grido lacernate, (A piercing cry, 1981) discussed in semi-fictional form her relationship with Longhi (Pireddu).

    Banti championed Pasolini his whole life. She published his personal journal, Il Ferrobedò, which later became the first chapter of his future bestseller Ragazzi di vita (Street Kids) in 1955. He praised her focus on the emancipated women and use of realism along with naturalism. Her husband’s teachings led her to have an eye for specific illuminating details and precision of color and the understanding of various art figures and their historical significance.

    Selected Bibliography

    • [complete bibliography:] Ghilardi, Margherita. Anna Banti (Lucia Lopresti Longhi) (1895 -1985) La Vita (website);
    • La monache cantano. Rome: Tuminelli, 1942;
    • Le donne muoiono. Milan: Mondadori, 1951;
    • Noi credevamo. Milan: Mondadori, 1967;
    • La camicia bruciato. Milan: Mondadori, 1973;
    • Artemisia. Florence: Sansoni, 1947. English, Artemisia. Lincoln NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1988;
    • Un grido lacerante. Milan: Rizzoli, 1981.
    • Romanzi e racconti: a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di Fausta Garavini. Milan: Mondadori, 2013;


    • Biagini, Enza. “Banti, Anna”.  Dizionario critico della letteratura italiana 2nd. ed. 2 (1986);
    • Heller, Deborah. “History, Art, and Fiction in Anna Banti’s Artemisia” in Aricáo, Santo L., ed. Contemporary Women Writers in Italy : A Modern Renaissance. University of Massachusetts Press, 1990, pp. 45–62;
    • Ballaro, Beverly. “Anna Banti (Lucia Lopresti Longhi 1895-1985)”. in, Russel, Rinaldina, ed. Italian Women Writers: A Bio-bibliographical Sourcebook. Westport CT: Greenwood, 1994, pp.35-40; [full article:]
    • Carù, Paola. “Uno sgurado actuo dalla storia: Anna Banti’s Historical Writings.” in Marotti, Maria Ornella and Gabriella Brooke, eds. Gendering Italian Fiction: Feminist Revisions of Italian History. Madison NJ: Fairleigh Dickson University Press, 1999, p. 87-101;
    • Pireddu, Nicoletta. “Modernism Misunderstood: Anna Banti Translates Virginia Woolf.” Comparative Literature 56, no. 1, 2004: 54–76;
    • Papini, Maria Carla. “Anna Banti al cinema.” Antologia Vieusseux33 (2005): 115-124,;
    • Banti, Anna. Romanzi e racconti: a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di Fausta Garavini. Milan: Mondadori, 2013;
    • Daughtery, Britiany. Between Historical Truth and Story-Telling: The Twentieth-Century Fabrication of “Artemisia. Dissertation, University of Nebraska, 2015.;
    • “L’imperturbable sagesse des femmes émancipées: Pasolini et Anna Banti.” Poetiche: rivista di letteratura 18, no. 1 (2016).;
    • Mirabile, Andrea. “‘Lorenzo Lotto’ Di Anna Banti: Fra Longhi e Berenson.” Italica 93, no. 2 (2016): 262–273;

    Contributors: Arden Schraff


    Arden Schraff. "Banti, Anna." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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