Daily life during the War


During the conflict and its aftermath, bourgeois lounges and the more modest living rooms and kitchens of the middle and working classes are filled with prints, photographs, images and all the items of propaganda sold to raise funds, together with Trench Art produced by the soldiers themselves. They are often made with great skill and a sense of style, uniting the evocative, reworked relics of war with their incongruous use as letter-openers, paperweights, inkwells penholders, desk clocks, smokers’ paraphernalia and varied knick-knacks. Bullets and other remnants are transformed into toys and everyday objects, marked with symbols of the conflict. In almost every house, there are brass and copper vases, often illustrated with writings or views of wartime sites and made from small and medium-sized shells. The proliferation of these patriotic, artisan and industrially produced artefacts reflects, in a deceptively reassuring manner, the gradual uniform levelling within society at that time with regard to the causes of the conflict. Between 1914 and 1918 there is not one family that can claim not to have been affected by a bereavement; the suffering and tears produced by the conflict are explicit in the bodies and minds of the soldiers who return wounded, sick or variously distressed, from the front. For such a tragic situation to be accepted, it is vital to convince or at least obtain the manifest consent of the population; this being achieved using an extensive welfare and propaganda operation in order to produce the total mobilisation of society.

The objects on display come from the Hellmann Collection in Rome, born out of the passion of Italo Hellmann, continued by his wife Enrica and son Alessandro and which, in terms of quality and quantity of exhibits, is among the most important both in Italy and beyond.