Lorenzo Mariotti, Sea and Beyond

An Italian painter takes over Istanbul. Lorenzo Mariotti’s solo exhibition at the Rahmi M. Koç Museum

by Bruno Cianci

«I cannot imagine a better place to exhibit my paintings than this museum. The attention to detail, the tidiness, and the love of wooden boats completely reflect my taste and passions». With these words, marine painter Lorenzo Mariotti opened his solo exhibition, entitled Sea and Beyond, on 7 June at the Rahmi M. Koç Museum in Istanbul. A total of 34 paintings were exhibited, all made with the oil on canvas technique on canvases in various sizes. This is not the painter’s first solo exhibition abroad: in fact, in 2019, a highly successful exhibition entitled The Marine Art of Lorenzo Mariotti was held in Washington on the occasion of the Day of the Italian Republic.

Thanks to his crystalline talent, the Roman artist was awarded the honorary title of ‘Meritorious painter’ by the Italian Navy, the institution that sponsored the Istanbul event together with the Italian Embassy in Ankara. Mariotti, born in 1972, paints mainly at night since during the day he is absorbed by his work as an engineer, architect, and lecturer at the La Sapienza University in Rome.

His past also includes a period in the Italian Navy as a complementary officer, a period he remembers with heartfelt nostalgia: «I first went to Istanbul in 1998 while I was embarked on Nave Vespucci and since then I have always wanted to come back to explore the city further. Exhibiting my paintings here, in a setting like the Rahmi M. Koç Museum, means a lot to me. This museum is simply ‘totalizing’. You are immersed in a unique atmosphere that leads you through beauty in every possible declination, and by the beauty I mean the perfect harmony between shape and function, as it is well expressed by every object on display. Even the soft scents of oils and metals of the past take visitors back in time, into the story of men’s love for brilliance».

Mariotti is also an inveterate sailor; in Anzio, he owns a family dinghy in mahogany named Aletto III, with clinker planking, which he is immensely fond of. Not only due to his memories, but also because it is, in all likelihood, the only unit of that model left in circulation.

The opening on 7 June was preceded by a conference on marine painting held by Admiral (retired) Paolo Bembo, which was organised in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in Istanbul. Bembo is known for his intense activity as a public speaker and for being the author of numerous books, including a monograph on Mariotti himself.

The aforementioned dinghy can be seen, with the painter’s children on board, in one of the most acclaimed paintings of the Istanbul exhibition, as well as on the poster of the event itself. It is entitled Sailors in the making and it portrays the aircraft carrier Cavour in the background with the small mahogany vessel in the foreground and the children captured by the grandeur of the warship. Another work in the exhibition, entitled Maid of Honour, was already part of the permanent collection of the Rahmi M. Koç Museum in 2019. It portrays an elegant Royal Navy lance, built in Cowes in 1925, which after being embarked on the HMS Hood and other British battleships was the tender of the challenger Sceptre in the 1958 America’s Cup. Although the traditional brass funnel may suggest otherwise, archival research has revealed that this is one of the earliest examples of this type of motorboat to have been equipped with diesel engines since its construction. Fun fact: the original boat, which was rebuilt based on the original salvaged parts by shipwright Mike Summers, has been part of the Rahmi M. Koç Museum’s collection since the autumn of 2017. 

From the left, Lorenzo Mariotti, Mine Sofuoğlu, general manager at the Rahmi M Koç Museum, and Giorgio Marrapodi, Italian Ambassador to Turkey.

Very interesting is the work portraying a classic yacht interior, taken from a photograph by Franco Pace, a Trieste-born photographer who is quoted at the bottom of the work in question. «I came across Pace’s photo by chance in a magazine and I liked it very much because it is a concentrate of my passions, which are sailing, history – it is a boat under restoration – architecture, and attention to detail», the artist declared.

(Lorenzo Mariotti, Sea and Beyond – Barchemagazine.com – September 2022)