House of UNUM founded by Italian artist Filippo Sorcinelli (musician, photographer, ecclesiastic tailor at LAVS and creator of SAUF project) will present its sixth Extrait de Parfum at the upcoming Esxence – The Scent of Excellence show in Milano.

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Filippo Soricinelli – photo by Yuri Kolesnikov

Persefume has pleasure to present you worldwide exclusive preview of this new scent called Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto (There are no hands to caress my face). This long name hides fascinating story – it has been directly inspired by the project of photographer Mario Giacomelli.

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Picture from Mario Giacommelli’s “Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto” series

We asked Filippo Sorcinelli to talk more about the inpiration behind the new scent:

“In 1961 Mario Giacomelli met a group of young students at the Episcopal Seminary at Senigallia. With the agreement of the church administration he began to photograph them in moments of relaxation after their long hours of study and prayer in preparation for ecclesiastical life. It was a subject which, like his photograph taken at the town of Scanno, had been tried out by other photographers; many had used black and white photography to exploit the distinctive quality of the cassock, but Giacomelli invented a way of portraying these priests in a manner that was so new that it cancelled out everything that had been produced up to that moment. He pictured priests playing with a ball, jumping about, or with kittens, or as they moved on the snow wearing large cloaks, or throwing pillows in dormitories to the bewilderment and amusement of everyone; lastly he photographed them from the roof of the Seminary as they danced in a ring.

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Picture from Mario Giacommelli’s “Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto” series

Giacomelli decided to change the title of the series – from Pretini (Young priests) to Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto (There are no hands to caress my face), the title of a poem by Father David Maria Turoldo – thus tying each picture to clear set of ideas. During one of his Sunday visits to the young priests he took them some cigars and photographed them smoking; and so, after once being accused of photographing old people at an old people’s home to make fun of their nudity, here at the seminar they accused him of causing disorder in a place where strict discipline ought to reign. These pictures, which would open the doors of fame for him, would also close the doors of the Seminary: from that day he was refused permission to photograph.

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UNUM Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto

In the story of what happened, we ought not to forget the figure of Don Enzo Formiconi, rector of the Episcopal Seminary in Senigallia at that time, who was a great friend and supporter of Giacomelli’s work, and who after that unfortunate misunderstanding was heavily criticized by the church authorities to such an extent that he was relieved of his post of rector. In the summer of 2001, after various research, I contacted some of the seminarians who appear in the photographs; I wanted to understand more from them, from their accounts, about life in that place, and about their meeting with Giacomelli. This is the voice of one of the young priests, Gianfranco Mancini:

I remember Giacomelli came to the Seminary for a whole winter; he came on Sunday, which was perhaps his free day and also ours – free from study – and he spent the morning with us. He always arrived early. We arranged various moments so that he could take photographs. That winter it just so happened there was a lot of snow, and this is why there are photographs of the young priests playing in the snow. It was an experience that caused a lot of trouble, created much controversy, because he had obviously obtained permission to take these photos from the Rector at that time, but not everyone in the church administration was in agreement: many felt it wasn’t right that photographs taken inside a seminary could be used in goodness knows what way!
These photos immediately had great success, and this perhaps made the trouble worse. Some felt it violated a place of contemplation, where people should think about spiritual training, study, and therefore his presence was extraneous, inappropriate in relation to what ought to be the life inside a seminary. So far as the photo of the young priests smoking…. That was the last straw! I remember the morning very well because one of them was me. I was seventeen and didn’t smoke, I wasn’t used to smoking, but that morning Mario handed me some cigars – not even cigarettes, cigars! – so that I ended up almost drunk, drunk through this smoking. I was very ill for the entire day. I now smoke Tuscan cigars and a pipe, but at that time it was a shock!

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UNUM Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto

The photo of the smoking priests brought an end to that experience for him, but for me it was the beginning of my friendship with Mario. Some of these friends of mine were always at the center of the two series of photographs; he looked for them in particular, he always put them in the center; one of these has been living in Canada for many years now. Of the others, one lives in South Africa, some have now passed away… Such is life! The photo where we are dancing in a circle, that circle where our cassocks flare out, that’s what he asked; then it became the most emblematic of the series. I remember for other shots he made us dress in black cloaks, it happened when there was a day of snow. He asked us simply to play. I believe that when he arrived he already had a very clear inspiration, which was then confirmed by the new title that he later gave to the series: Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto (There are no hands to caress my face), from a poem by Father David Maria Turoldo. A few years later, in 1970, I was studying at the University of Milan and went one Sunday to visit Father Turoldo who lived at Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo. I remember we spoke about Giacomelli’s photographs and about the fact that he had chosen his poem as the title of the work. He was very flattered. I think Giacomelli, at that time – but not just at that time because it was always something of a constant idea for him – was looking to focus his lens on situations of suffering; with us he probably wasn’t looking into physical suffering, but since he used this title, Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto, he probably thought of capturing the suffering of solitude of those young men who have chosen a life in which they are alone.

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I always thought that behind this game, behind this series of movements, he was in fact looking into our community – at that time there very many of us, over a hundred! – to understand the reason for that choice of solitude. Otherwise he would have chosen another title or left the original one, Pretini (Young priests). What we appear to be doing is playing; here there are no signs of suffering, in fact there are signs of fun, of apparent joy, but behind it? Mario was very discreet, he was not an intrusive presence; he spoke little, probably also out of respect for the life we led in the seminary, in a closed community, but this was always his approach and it was what I loved most about him, about his company: his ability always to grasp the essential. In his judgments he was also very essential and at times also very crude, and harsh. I remember that shortly before he passed away we looked at this series of photos once more and he spoke again about the church administration, about the atmosphere and some of the priests who appear in these photographs and still today, forty years later, do not approve of them. I noted in him a certain distress because of this: he would have liked them to understand his work and instead he found a fairly hostile atmosphere.

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Mario was a man whom I might describe as elementary, in the sense that he knew how to grasp what was most true, sincere, direct about normal behavior, behind our ordinary way of being. He always knew how to go and find the truest reality. This is what, in my view, has always distinguished his photos, whether landscapes or portraits. In whatever he was photographing he was always seeking the element of deep truth. Even when he was making us play, in each of our faces he was always trying to capture the profoundest element that we could express; over and above our movements, his interest was always in our face. On the faces of human beings you can always see fundamental things. For him, photography meant capturing something profound in the landscape, in the human face and there it ended: his world was this, and this was the way he was.”

Hope you have become mesmarized by Filippo Sorcinelli‘s story as much as we are! Now you can probably wonder how does UNUM Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto actually smell!

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Head notes: Petit grain, bergamot, galbanum, myrrh
Heart notes: Cedarwood, geranium, clary sage, cinnamon leaves, styrax, ylang-ylang
Base notes: Incense, benzoin, tonka beans, tobacco absolute, amber (ambroxan), sandalwood

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The current UNUM line-up (old style packaging was discontinued last year)

UNUM Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto will be available as Extrait de Parfum 100ml. Our review will come shortly!

Quotes and UNUM bottle pictures by Filippo Sorcinelli, portrait by Yuri Kolesnikov. Pictures from Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto series – Simone Giacomelli‘s archive. Text credits: Simona Guerra. Translation: Richard Dixon
Liberamente tratto da “Mario Giacomelli. La mia vita intera” a cura di Simona Guerra – Ed. Bruno Mondadori, 2008
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Thank you to UNUM Team: Filippo Sorcinelli, Yuri Kolesnikov and Rossella Caputo for those exclusive news!