Marisa, Volpi

Full Name
Volpi Orlandini, Marisa
Date Born
19 August 1928
Date Died
12 May 2015
Place Born
Place Died
Home Country

Writer, art critic, curator, professor. While Volpi was born in Macerata to Dante and Matilde Andreani and spent almost her entire life living in Rome. She attended the Guilio Cesare high school in Rome while taking courses at the Accademia d’Arte drammatica Silvio d’Amico (Silvio d’Amico Academy of Dramatic Arts) where she became interested in the Italian Communist Party. In 1952, she graduated from the Università “La Sapienza” di Roma writing her M.A. in Philosophy entitled Il pensiero politico di Pellegrino Rossi (The political thought of Pellegrino Rossi). Following her graduation, she began working with Roberto Longhi specializing in the art of the Florentine region. In Florence, she befriended the art critic Carla Lonzi (1931-1982). Working with Longhi on Medieval and Modern Art History, she defended her thesis, Il percorso di Corrado Giaquinto in 1956. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Volpi taught art history and applied arts at the Istituto Statale d’Arte per l’Arredo and the Decorazione della Chiesa. She developed close relationships with Maria Teresa Benedetti (1929-), an art historian, and Giuseppe Uncini (1929-2008), an Italian sculptor. In 1966, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and travelled to the United States with her husband Ferdinando Orlandini (1926-1988). Throughout this trip, she met and collaborated with important art historians, critics and artists like De Kooning, Rothko and Rasuchenberg. She published important work including a book on Kandinsky in 1968 and Arte dopo il 1945 in 1969 following her return. Between 1969 and 1972, Volpi taught medieval, modern, and contemporary art at the University of Cagliari where she was colleagues with Corrado Maltese (1921-2001) and Italian art critic Gillo Dorfles (1910-2018). Her courses covered topics from Roman Classicism to American avant-garde and post-war art. Volpi then moved to Rome to teach Sociology of Art at the institute now called Università di Roma Tre until she earned a title as a professor. She was appointed to the chair of Contemporary Art at La Sapienza (Sapienza University of Rome) in 1982. Throughout the 1980s, she published several works on 19th century symbolist artists including Böcklin and De Chirico and works on Manet, Monet, Degas, and Morisot. Towards the end of her career she began writing fiction and short stories influenced by the biographical events and works of Romantic, Symbolist, and Impressionist artists. She was awarded the Premio Viareggio in 1986 and the Premio Vallombrosa in 1988. In 1993, she published an autobiographical novel entitled La casa di via Tolmino. Volpi taught at La Sapienza until 2003 with colleagues including Angiola Maria Romanini (1926-2002) and Maurizio Calvesi (1927-2020). In 2004, she was appointed Emeritus Professor of Contemporary Art History. She died in Rome on May 13, 2015. From her fictional works to her formal art historical publications, Volpi demonstrated her ability to use different temporal views to construct a fluid narrative for her readers (Sbrilli).

Selected Bibliography
  • [complete bibliography:] on
  • L'Espressionismo. Catalogo Mostra Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi, Vallecchi, 1964;
  • Kandinsky, dall'art nouveau alla psicologia della forma, Lerici, Rome, 1968;
  • Arte dopo il 1945: Usa, Cappelli editore, Bologna, 1969;
  • Kandinsky e il Blaue Reiter. Collana Mensili d'arte, 31, Fabbri, Milan, 1970;
  • Nietzsche e De Chirico, in Scritti in onore di Giuliano Briganti, Rome, 1990;
  • “Biografia Marisa Volpi.” Accessed March 15, 2021.;
  • Bottai, Maria Stella. “Per Conoscere Marisa Volpi.” Predella Journal of Visual Arts, 2014,;
  • Cecchetti, Maurizio. “Marisa Volpi La Ricerca Di Sé Fra Arte e Scrittura.” Avvenire.April 27, 2017;
  • Mattarella, Lea. “La scomparsa di Marisa Volpi Raccontò l’arte.” la Repubblica, May 5, 2015;
  • Scacco, Lorella. “Lo studio di Marisa Volpi. Arte, Critica, Scrittura.” art a part of cult(ure), May 11, 2017;
  • Ursino, Mario. Marisa Volpi, fra scrittura e lezioni istituzionali: un ricordo della grande studiosa nel convegno a due anni dalla scomparsa, 2017.