In September 1957 Lucio Berzioli was sent by the Farabola Press Agency to photograph Peggy Guggenheim in her Venetian home, Cà Venier dei Leoni. He seems to have found the house full of family: Peggy’s daughter Pegeen, wife of Jean Hélion, was visiting. She had brought with her their three boys, Fabrice, David and Nicolas, as well as two of their cousins, Clovis and Mark, the children of Sindbad, Pegeen’s older brother. Berzioli’s idea, as genial as it was natural, was to choose paintings from Peggy’s collection, and to compose his portraits of her around these. Thus we see Peggy seated below her painting by Hélion, with its variety of shapes in different sizes, surrounded by a crowd of grandchildren and dogs; or Peggy holding a small painting of a mask-like head by Victor Brauner, while she herself mimics the mask with her large shell-shaped sunglasses. She rides in her gondola holding William Congdon’s picture of a Venetian sailboat, or poses at a window with both Pegeen and one of Pegeen’s paintings, or turns her head in profile to look at the profiled plaster bust in Giorgio de Chirico’s Nostalgia of the Poet. Her Calder earring echoes the linear diagram on the obelisk. She stands besides the strange, full length creatures in Max Ernst’s The Anti-Pope as if one of them: the wisteria on the gates merges with Ernst’s strange landscape. Generally Peggy appears wearing a smart white dress with a wide collar and large belt, but Berzioli had her change into other outfits too, and we might suppose that his demands of her tried her patience. She only appears smiling when she is with her family, or in her gondola. For the rest she is serious. Berzioli’s intuition was of course a good one: to reveal Peggy through the intimacy of her love for her collection as well as for her family.
These photographs were acquired from the Massimo Minini Gallery, Brescia, thanks to the generosity of Safilens, as part of the celebrations for the thirtieth anniversary of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s operation of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Peggy and her paintings