• Steven Heller

Humor on the Right

In 1950, Il Borghese was established by the editor, designer and humorist Leopoldo Longanesi (1905–1957). He had earlier founded other controversial magazines such as L’italiano and Omnibus, and because he was a devoted Fascist whose motto was “Mussolini is always right,” these were anti-liberal but liberally spiked with wit and humor.

His close relationship to the Italian Duce is hard to fathom: How could satiric commentary and a staunch satirist exist under a rigid dictatorship? After the fall of Fascism, Leo, as he was known, moved ever so lightly to the left. Il Borghese, first released with a fortnightly and then a weekly magazine of culture and news but was best known (until 1957) for the distinctive illustrated covers designed by Longanesi and for some satirical photos against the ruling class of the period.

Il Borghese was named after the ultra conservative Borghese family. Longanesi was involved until his death. Afterward the witty aspects of his intellectual right-wingism degenerated to simple reactionary rhetoric.

Longanesi shared editorship with a former “student”, Indro Montanelli, and in the 1950s the magazine was connected to the Christian Democracy Party. However, its support ended when Longanesi was disappointed that the party was too weak to counter the “communist threat.” Before his premature death at age 52, Longanesi went on to found a major publishing house that continues to bear name. Most interesting, while his work as a designer for the magazine’s interior was rather uninspired, those pen and ink covers continue to exert graphic power that seems to transcend the political polarities of its day.

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