Looking at the works by the Italian artist Giuseppe Biasi (1885-1945) made during his stay in Egypt between 1924 and 1927, the paper deals with issues of national and regional identity, focussing on the role played by the perception of racial and sexual alterity. A leading figure of the regionalist movement which in the 1910s strived to construct a new identity for his native Sardinia (then a backward region, treated by Italy as a subcolonial domain), Biasi had devoted his early years to represent the peasant world of the island as a primitive Eden, in secessionist, decorative paintings. Determined to achieve through his paintings what he called a “Mediterraneized Gauguin”, he discovered in Egypt a wealth of motives which prompted his move to a more modern (if not modernist) style. In that context, he also encountered a kind of alterity different from anything he had experienced in Sardinia: one which wasn’t just class-based, but also racial and – given his choice to take African women as his main subject- sexual. Yet, his attitude was ambivalent: on the one hand, he used the image of the Egyptian “Other” in the classic orientalist way, as a means to strenghten his own Western identity; on the other hand, he sympathized with the quest for national identity intiated by Egyptian painters such as Mukhtar and Said, with whom he exhibited and whose work he influenced. Back in Italy, Biasi’s peculiar brand of Orientalism was in turn to reshape his vision of Sardinia, lending the latter the traits of the Egyptian landscape and people.
Mediterraneizing Gauguin. Giuseppe Biasi's imagined Egypt / Altea, Giuliana. - (2013), pp. 2-2. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Visions of Egypt. Literature and Culture fromt he Nineteenth Century to the Present tenutosi a Hull nel 6-7 settembre 2013.