Alexandra Bruzzese

Lost Futurist murals rediscovered in a former 1920s jazz and cabaret club in Rome

Murals painted by Italian Futurist artist Giacomo Balla, long believed lost, have been rediscovered in the Eternal City. The works were hidden under layers of wallpaper and wooden panels and uncovered during renovations of a building currently owned by the Bank of Italy. They hadn’t been seen in nearly a century.

The building that housed the Bal Tic Tac in Rome. Photo by: Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma

Originally, the bold mural – which sprawls across 80 sqm of walls and ceiling – adorned the Bal Tic Tac, a buzzing jazz and cabaret club in the 1920s, close to the city centre’s Piazza della Repubblica. Specialists are now working on exposing and restoring Balla’s artwork. The mural will be made public as part of the Bank of Italy’s new museum, slated to open in 2021. “It’s a sensational discovery,” said the capital’s superintendent of Fine Arts, Archeology and Landscape, Francesco Prosperetti. “That these temperas stood the test of time, and endured throughout the century despite transformations to the building is something miraculous: to find the walls and the ceiling intact and in such good condition is exceptional.” He added that it took Balla four months to complete the piece. Predominantly in shades of red, yellow, and blue, the mural is also composed of a white square, the space where films were presumably projected, a feature of the club.

Restored Giacomo Balla mural at the Bal Tic Tac. Photo by: Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma

Giacomo Balla was a painter best known as a leading proponent of Futurism, an artistic and social movement that originated Italy in the early 20th century. It celebrated speed, technology, youth, and industry. Balla’s works commonly explored light and motion through the medium of painting.

Restoration in progress at the Bal Tic Tac. Photo by Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma

Coincidentally, an exhibition of 30 of Balla’s paintings called “Balla at Villa Borghese” will be on display at Rome’s Museo Carlo Bilotti from 29 November until 17 February 2019.