In response to:

The Art of the Dead from the February 23, 2006 issue

To the Editors:

A couple of items related to Italian cemetery statuary:

James Fenton rues that Sandra Berresford’s book [Italian Memorial Sculpture, 1820–1940: A Legacy of Love, reviewed in “The Art of the Dead,” NYR, February 23] wants for more distinguished photography. Alas, that would indicate that neither of them was aware of a particularly distinguished body of photographs made in Genoa’s Staglieno Cemetery. They are those of Lee Friedlander, whose wife is of Ligurian ancestry. Nazraeli Press has published an elegant book of a selection of this work.

When I was a fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation three years ago (its property borders on Genoa’s city limit) we entertained a guest for dinner who happened to be the region’s historical preservation administrator. I had just that week spent a day in Staglieno and referred to the time-compromised status of so many of the memorials. She in turn agreed that there was indeed a monumental amount of work waiting to be tackled.

But, she went on, all this decaying cultural richness was in a legal limbo, and she, thereby, in a pickle—any and all possible remedification was in stasis.

The rub: though the ownership of a large percentage of the statuary has become nebulous, untraceable, and no longer verifiable, as the original families have become diffuse, attenuated, and/or emigrated to Argentina and the US, the monuments are all still considered to be under private ownership. Thus, a public agency such as the one she headed was legally bound not to expend any governmental funds for their repair, restoration, and refurbishment.

Stuart Klipper

Minneapolis, Minnesota

This Issue

November 16, 2006