Art and Psyche

through the paintings
by Vittorio Mazzucconi

Note critiche                                                                                           Riassunto degli incontri

30th September

Birth is one of the central themes in Mazzucconi’s paintings, explored on several levels, touching off from the primordial creation of the world, all the way to the maternal birth of man. Another theme is duality, between male and female, mind and matter, life and death, through which the quest for unity is born.
In this respect, the chaos of the world can be perceived through the apocalyptic vision inspiring most of Mazzucconi’s work. In these very early paintings, he seems to start from the beginning of the world, at the same time watching its ending and the possible catharsis therein. It’s a battle, between contrasting forces, as we can see in the painting entitled “The Spiritual Work”, the Mazzucconi Foundation’s logo, in which an angel of light is acting upon a tied man in the dark, to set him free. From a pictorial perspective, these first stages seem to be spontaneously recapitulating some early features of contemporary art, while the strong sense of duality is expressed in the relationship between reds and blues, between straight and curved lines, between light and darkness. These contrasting themes entwine in a geometrical pattern rooted in Mazzuconi’s training as an architect. One of the most beautiful shapes in geometry, the spiral, will continue to appear as an eternal symbol of harmony and birth in the various phases of the artist’s process of evolution.
It can therefore be stated that all the central themes in Mazzucconi’s work are already present in this early stage, from birth to the spiral, duality to unity, chaos to harmony, the spirit to the material.


1976 - 1977

According to Plato, the cave represents the human condition. All that seems to be real is nothing but a shadow on the cave’s walls. Not only does the shadow lie within us all, but we also originate from it. The cave also represents the womb, and to leave the cave is to be born. It is a primeval impulse we obey from the moment we are born and which will guide us all through life, during our attempt to reach the light, that is to say, to escape from the cave…

Lecture n. 13, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text) 1976-1977

7th october

The world of geometry collapses under the force of emotional impulses, evoking archetypal mysteries and mythological characters, until Eros appears, and with it, the true force of the soul.
The poetry of the meeting with the beloved maiden, the sensual transportation that follows, the successive anxiety and guilt follow one after the other. The paintings skilfully express these passages through colours and forms, eventually surrendering to the dramatic and inevitable ending of Love.


Eros and Love

Eros is the power that drives us into the dark cave, only to then assist us in escaping it later. It firstly allures us with a mirage of happiness, and then entraps us into it, binding us to life. Eros puts us in touch with the primeval forces, archetypes and the pulses of our being, until it eventually evolves into love. Through love we respond to the command to return to our original unity via the rejoining the aspects of male and female, the reunification of body and soul. Still, this is not an everlasting achievement. A new division is tearing us apart, drawing us back even deeper into the cave, because, if we want to reach the dawn of light, we must first survive the dark hours of night.. and the arcane messages therein evoked...

The anguish of expiation is endured in darkness and pain, the paintings bearing witness in a series of dramatic works, in which the descent of the soul into the underworld is depicted by figures evoking the Judgement of the soul and other aspects of punishment and pain. Dark paintings, dipped in a deep blue that does not originate from the sky but from the sea, the sea of the unconscious.
Here, Mazzucconi employs a dialogue between straight and curved lines, within a geometrical pattern under the command of his soul’s deepest emotions. His palette supplements this in his choice of colours: along with forms created in hundreds of shades of blues and blacks, it also resorts to earth-tones, not warm and verging-to-red as in the previous evolution, but instead, dull earth-tones, especially in the last canvases, expressing the resignation of the return to reality, and the loss of the erotic and spiritual impulses that only love can inspire.


The Descent into the Underworld

The loss of the beloved maiden reminds us of the death of Eurydice and of the desperate quest by Orpheus to find her. The resulting descent into the underworld is equivalent to the return to the dark cave, from which we mistakenly believed we had escaped. There we find monsters and ghosts along our painful journey, at the end of which we expect to find Eurydice, only to lose her again, this time forever. By pushing us toward this meeting, Eros is providing us with a great gift for our inner growth.

Lecture n. 14, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text) 1979-1980

14th October

The paintings of this period correspond to a stage of introspection that, after undergoing the pain of human illusions, finds a solution on canvas in visions entangled with magic and oracular features, often taking place within a bluish or silver-toned vacuum of lunar impact, in which a hint of red finally re-establishes the element of vitality. Figures are no longer sunken in a deep sea as in the previous phase, but seem to emerge and face a far away sky, a cosmic vacuum full of a higher blue or a ghostly whiteness, proclaiming purity and inner catharsis. In this oneiric environment, the abstract layout sometimes collides with the personal history of the painter and condenses into scenes and faces from his family background, to be then immediately surpassed and transcended into ancestral, psychological and interior messages. A new, softly sensual female figure emerges, to then transform herself into a mask whose several faces are engaged in an unending formal and chromatic dialogue between themselves and with the mysterious witness that conceals himself behind this play of identities.
The spiral figure appears more and more frequently, as the luminous and numinous symbol of prospective birth. A birth foretold by the angels painted in the final year of this period, whom, as of yet, have found no one willing to heed their divine messages.


The Night of the Soul

After the descent into the underworld in the previous conference, this seminar continues the journey by investigating the successive state of no-love and no-life, where a lunar light awards us a glimpse of the bleak path our soul must undertake. Along this trail, we meet Osiris, once depicted as the guide of the soul into the hereafter, now accompanying us along the lengthy journey to ourselves. The night of the soul can be thus transformed into a fruitful opportunity, under the fertile influence of the moon, promoting our inner growth and most of all, preparing us for the awakening to come. From the rebellion of a defeated Eros, to the deep sleep initiating the night of the soul, we are slowly approaching our reawakening, which will be expressed through various means by the paintings.

Lecture n. 15, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text) 1981-1989

21st October

As expressed by the title of the seminar, ART AND PSYCHE, Mazzucconi’s paintings explore not only artistic but psychological themes, combining psychology, philosophy and metaphysics in an exploration and revelation of the life of the soul.
While the contemporary art circuit is characterised by abstract, conceptual, linguistic, and market-driven features, Mazzucconi’s work celebrates the manifestation of inner values and eternal truths, an unflinchingly courageous expression of the life of the soul. His refusal to pay homage to artistic schools and superficial trends in the art world frees him to confront and reveal the various phases of his personal spiritual growth, naturally paralleling the journey of the subconscious revealed in the analysis of ancient mythology.
While psychology can grasp many features of this process, it can be suggested that it also tends to become a literary expression of its own, as does the field of art criticism. Both of such perspectives tend to evolve within a self-addressing circuit, thus excluding them from the realm of genuine mythology, the creation of true works of art, and inevitably, from the deep and inherent truths of the human experience.
Mazzucconi re-establishes contact with the depths of the human soul, that infinite mystery where everything in existence is already present, and thus attains direct access to the inner Source. This Source is expressed in his paintings, architectural works and writings, embracing and giving testimony to the infinitely valuable process of spiritual investigation.


A Meeting between Art and Psychology

In the previous three lectures of this seminar, we introduced: the Dark Cave, Eros and the Descent into the Underworld and, finally, the Night of the Soul, associated with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Through the analysis of Vittorio Mazzucconi’s paintings dating back from 1976-1980, we discover, through the inherent parallels to these myths, the emotional expression of the labour of the soul. Prior to the next cycle devoted to Persephone, who will transport us through a further stage of the soul’s journey and its relevant pictorial expression, this seminar offers a reflective pause, a moment for psychological and philosophical investigation, guided by the intervention and the expertise of Dr. Caddeo. In his lecture, he enlarged the subject of the Seminar with the myth of Ulysses, which also symbolizes the path of the human psyche.

Lecture n. 16, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

28th October

The introduction of light is the first indication of a new artistic cycle for Mazzucconi, a reawakening of colours and a lightening of the entire scenic environment. This new direction is not an expression of an external, illuminated space, but rather, an inner realm, which is neither earth nor sky nor sea, but instead, the configuration of an absolute and timeless dimension. If the main theme is the experience of abandonment, as an expression of the soul taking flight from the individual, then it finds expression on canvas within an endless delivery of formal and chromatic signs. Above all, there is an unexpected pictorial novelty represented by paintings in which the figures undergo a dismembering and a dismantling, to be eventually reassembled in diverse canvases. This illustrates the dramatic relationship between erotic impulses, intuitively depicted in earth tones with warm tones of pink, as the longing to approach the spiritual hub of the Self. These works capture the normality of human gestures and transport them to the deeper, magical and truthful dimension of myth.


Body and Soul

The birth of a new love reawakens the hope of escaping the cave and finally finding our cherished dream of happiness. When this proves to be an illusion, and we find ourselves repeating the entire cycle, the inevitable separation leads us, yet again, to pain and despair.
To this regard Mazzucconi recounts, “I am prone to identify the person who is leaving me as my very soul, which on a profound level, frees itself from me and leaves me, leaves my body.” The experience of abandonment thus becomes a metaphor for the separation of the soul from the body, and therefore, death. This time however, the experience of descending into the Underworld, as when Orpheus seeks Eurydice, is not completely without hope. In the case of Persephone, the quest to overcome this separation evolves into the realisation that soul may survive even after death, at least in alternating periods, just as it occurs with Persephone.

Lecture n. 17, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text) 1989-1990

4th November

The Dawn, which signals this new period, is expressed with a palette that intuitively combines the pink, the soft blue, and the yellow of light. In this period we find paintings on paper, strongly accentuating freedom of expression. New love relationships have stimulated creativity in an uninterrupted passage from sensuality to the flights of the soul. It is apparent that we are no longer cast into a duality that, in its endless forms, rigidly imposed the plot of our existence, trapping us in the unending cyclical shift between love and the end of love. It is now the moment of awakening to an unfolding multiplicity, full of luminous discoveries and stimulating contradictions.



After discussing Persephone and her rape by Pluto in the last lecture, we now enter a new period without love. Yet there is no sadness in it, as we look toward the innumerable signs of the coming dawn. After the pain, which culminated in the large painting of the Crucifixion, the soul has now discovered its autonomy and with it, a new sense of freedom, even in the cyclical alternations we discovered in the myth of Persephone. It is now experiencing the birth of a new creative power, capable of inventing new forms of love, and even new forms of endings, in an ever-changing experience that is vital and alive. We are no longer living in the lunar light of the descent into the Underworld in search of Eurydice, but in the first beams of the light of dawn after the endless night. Life in the daytime, life on earth, is now born and it can be freely modelled under the command of Eros, the true Creator, as we can see illustrated in many of the paintings.

Lecture n. 18, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text)

11th November

These paintings evoke an enormous erotic and artistic power. An underlying spiritual impulse can be grasped as well, both inspired and hindered by this conflicting relationship of union/division. Isn’t typical of Eros to promise us an escape-route out of the cave while actually casting us into it at the same time? On the one hand, a physical heaviness, a weighty character and context pervade, in direct contrast, the urgent desire for spiritual union until they clash together in irremediable conflict. The paintings express the diverse phases of this battle of the soul in a wide and various spectrum of forms, accents and colors.



The story we have been following, from the myth of Eurydice and the loss of the soul, to that of Persephone, where the soul lives in alternating cycles, now brings us to the myth of Psyche. This too is a love story, a love that brings happiness and despair, but differently from the first two myths, it opens up to the ultimate and supreme prospect: after so much pain, Psyche is at last received by the Gods. The human soul can now acknowledge its own divinity, but what path must we take to reach this divine goal?
In the paintings of this period, and in the life inspiring them, we can identify two thematic lines: union and division. In this seminar we explore the theme of union, the strong emotions incited in that fusion, and the visions inspired by their sublimation. Though the first signs of dissidence have emerged, this will take the stage entirely in the period to follow, and lead us to a final catharsis.

Lecture n. 19, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text)

18th November

The sky, which in Mazzucconi’s early paintings evoked the sea, the sea of unconscious, and the descent into the Underworld, then became a lunar sky, and later on again, became an setting outside of time and space. The sky now embodies several other identities: a dark sky, a golden sky, a sky of pink, or even a sky split into two different and opposing parts. It has thus become an inner sky, both as the soul’s attainment and as its pictorial presentation. In many paintings, it holds the central position and focus of the canvas, even appearing inside the central representative figures. A further step was implemented by re-painting some canvases. Paintings which initially shed insight on the idyll of love are now called upon to illustrate the desperation of love’s end. Mazzucconi employs a transformational device: he has a tendency to disassemble, turning his artworks upside and taking them to pieces in order to have them reconsidered within a more dramatic and expressive context, as is also apparent in the 1989-1990 period, as well as in his architectural projects.



Union, disunion: these are the first two steps of the reading of myth of Psyche, which we are examining through the paintings in our seminar. In the last lecture, we focused on love, a love of such intensity that it is transformed into the nucleus of an impersonal fusion. In this session we confront the aspect of division, and with it, the reemergence of duality and the resulting conflict which ensues.
This process will guide us toward the final catharsis approached in the next lecture. With catharsis, we surrender to the final reunion, to be experienced at a deep inner level, where the soul no longer seeks fulfillment through transient forms of love, but instead seeks direct union with the divine nucleus of our being, the eternal Self who dwells within.

Lecture n. 20, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text)

25th November

Throughout history, the image of Christ has been connected with the cross. In the artist’s vision, the cross also takes on the meaning of a sacred crossing, a spiritual event beyond the limitations of traditional Christian interpretation. We come into being when our soul meets up the world, and this also happens with the works of man. Mazzucconi has always expressed this not only in his paintings but also in his architectural designs. The project of the Dawning City promoting the refounding of Florence is, in fact, based upon the shape of the cross. It unites in the architectural design the city’s ancient foundation, the Christian identity of Florence, and its possible re-birth, in the hope that the flower of spiritual birth might bloom from this encounter.



The long vicissitudes of the human soul have thus evolved from one love to another, from one life to the next, continually repeating the same cycle, until, with Psyche, we finally become aware of our divine nature. The divine has always been present in the process, represented as the Witness, aloof, neutral, neither male nor female: the inner void, the inner self, which is very real in comparison with all outer appearances. This Witness becomes slowly evident to our consciousness as the principle of God dwelling within us, like a rough sketch which slowly takes divine form. Only by starting from that initial sketch can we begin to perfect it. Only by experiencing our dark side can we transform it into a pure and luminous being, the Self, and find ourselves within.

Lecture n. 21, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text)

2nd December

Mazzucconi has, in fact elaborated on this image in all of his paintings in many shapes and forms: as a creating spirit, as an incomplete or crippled being, as an underwater character attempting to emerge, as an obscure being, as an angel, as Christ. The guiding principle used as a through-line is the awareness that God is within us, even in the form of our limitations and suffering. In the final stage of this journey, of which we caught glimpses in moments of intense pain, we arrive at the figure of Christ, represented in an unconventional and unorthodox version of our traditional iconography.



The title of this lecture could have been “Towards a spiritual birth”, if we had wanted to attribute the sense of final enlightenment to our birth, an attainment unlikely to be within our reach today. Today, and in all the work we have done so far, let’s think about this birth as a beginning. Not only are we walking the path, but it can also be said that in every moment we are beginning: in each moment of our lives this birth is taking place.
It’s a process unfolding within us as our spiritual center begins to open up, but how does this affect the external world around us? For the moment, we can conceive of this endeavor as a seed, germinated with divine potential, to plant and cultivate with love in the sacred encounter between our soul and the world.

Lecture n. 22, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text)

9th December

What have we learned from Mazzucconi’s paintings? Where has his artistic journey taken us? Over and above any artistic criticism, in its totality, his work unfolds as a long and fertile night, populated by dreams as all nights are, leading eventually to a new dawn. This is true for both his inner realization as a man, and in his architectural work, especially in his vision of urban re-qualification, the refounding of historic cities, where the true meaning of spiritual birth can be grasped, as an auroral event. It implies a return to an inner purity, to a “void”, a blank page, to extract oneself from a world which is on the contrary “full” of too many material interests. It’s a vision that requires an inner strength for being able to lay the first stone, as a seed, and for creating a void able to receive that seed, as would a womb. We have seen in his projects “Dawning City” and “The City in the Image and Likeness of Man” the seed for a spiritual and civil re-birth. This is also offered by Vittorio Mazzucconi to the city of Milan with the “Cathedral Ark” project, with which we conclude our Seminar... .



What have we discovered in this seminar, which concludes with tonight’s meeting? Where has it taken us, and where have we arrived?
We could say that, after becoming conscious of the divinity of soul, and it’s realisation in the Self, which is the center of our being, we must then acknowledge the void within us as an inner space, the womb in which we can receive, generate and prepare for our spiritual birth.
In this way we can unite spirituality with art and all other human activities, and be like a seed able to grow in the world around us.
But can this union really be possible today, or will it be achieved only after the catastrophe to which our world seems to be unfortunately bound?
As death is necessary to create new life, is destruction similarly needed to again create the void, as a creative space for a new civilization?

Lecture n. 23, complete Italian text, with the images of the paintings

Catalogue of paintings (English text)

The Dawing city
The Palatine Pyramid
The City in the Image and Likeness of Man
The Cathedral Ark