[7] Biography: Jolie Bovio Marconi (1897-1986)

Jole Bovio Marconi can be considered the most important character of our SICILYWAR project. Involved in the protection of antiquities in Sicily, she was certainly the main superintendent to act in that crucial historical context involved in rescuing art and saving collections during the conflict. It is essential to stress that she was one of the first women in Italy to become superintendents working for the state.

Bovio Marconi was born in Rome on 21 January 1897 from an official working in northern Italy. She obtained her degree in Humanities in 1921 writing a thesis on Roman Topography with Rodolfo Lanciani, well-known archaeologist. She then moved to Athens between 1923 and 1924 studying at the Scuola Archeologica Italiana and collaborating with Alessandro Della Seta. In 1926, she married Pirro Marconi, archaeologist and director of the National Museum of Palermo. Unfortunately, Pirro died quite soon. Meanwhile, Bovio Marconi worked at the National Museum became vice-director in 1937. As an archaeologist, she excavated in the province of Palermo and investigated (in the first stage) Cefalù and Petralia Sottana. In 1939 she also analysed a new protohistoric culture at the Conca d’Oro and archaeological evidence at Grotta del Vecchiuzzo (near Palermo).

Why is Bovio Marconi crucial for our SICILYWAR project? At the dawn of World War 2, she became main Director of the Museum and also Superintendent of Archaeology managing the whole province. In this crucial event, Bovio Marconi acted very professionally. She was constantly busy in supervising excavations also in critical contexts. For instance, he monitored rescue operations in Palermo’s downtown while the local authorities were building up anti-raid shelters for local communities. In the view of social networking, Bovio Marconi was a key unit: she interacted with local authorities, as police forces and prefects, or military agents working within ‘sensible’ archaeological areas.

On top of that, Bovio Marconi worked hard to organise the protection of her museum. This process was long and demanding. In 1940 she began packing all essential collections. She was constantly in contact with the other superintendents (e.g. Guiotto) to manage the transfer of finds from Palermo to San Martino delle Scale. Rescuing art and collections was impelling at that stage: Bovio Marconi had to be extremely efficient to save archaeological finds before the Allied bombs could damage the building.

After the war, Bovio Marconi was still busy to transfer all finds back to Palermo. She excavated also at Addaura Cave, Niscemi Cave and Levanzo (early 1950s) and then in Selinunte, where she reconstructed the Temple E. She also renovated the temple of Segesta. Bovio Marconi obtained a prestigious award in 1964: the Gold Medal for Her Merits for Culture, Art and School. In the last years of her life, Bovio Marconi was fully committed to publish the results of previous archaeological excavation and worked hard to complete her monograph on the Vecchiuzzo Cave. Bovio Marconi died in Palermo on 14 April 1986.

What about her studies and writing activities? Bovio Marconi published not only many dissemination articles, but also a variety of essays, books and articles on the history and archaeology. of Sicily, like Palermo e la sua zona archeologica (1934), Un rudere delle più antiche mura di Palermo (1942), La scultura arcaica greca (1944), Sui graffitti dell’Addaura (1953), I monumenti megalitici di Cefalù e la cultura protostorica mediterranea (1953), Il Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Palermo (1956) and La grotta del Vecchiuzzo (1975).

List of references on Jolie Bovio Marconi:

Battaglia G. (2017), L’archeologia al femminile: la figura e l’opera di Jole Bovio Marconi, in R. Panvini and A. Sammito (eds.), Archeologia in Sicilia tra le due guerre. Atti del Convegno di Studi, Modica, 5-6-7 Giugno 2014, Modica: Ente Autonomo “Liceo Convitto”: 15-24.

Battaglia G. and Sarà G. (2012), Jole Bovio Marconi, in M. Costantini (ed.), Dizionario Biografico dei Soprintendenti Archeologi (1909-1974), Bologna: Bononia University Press: 142-47.

Battaglia G. and Sarà G. (2014), Jole Bovio Marconi, in A. Guidi (ed.), 150 anni di preistoria e protostoria in Italia. Florence: Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria: 954-63.

Bonacasa N. (1996), Ricordo di Jole Bovio Marconi, in Quaderni del Museo archeologico regionale Antonino Salinas, 2: 25-32.

Di Stefano C. A. (1986), Jole Bovio Marconi, in memoriam, in Quaderni del Museo archeologico regionale Antonino Salinas, 2: 11-18.

Marconi C. (1996), Jole Bovio Marconi, in Quaderni del Museo archeologico regionale Antonino Salinas, 2: 45-51.

Riccobono S. (1996), Jole Bovio Marconi negli anni ‘50-‘60, in Quaderni del Museo archeologico regionale Antonino Salinas, 2: 39-42.

Scuderi V. (1996), Ricordo della signora Marconi, in Quaderni del Museo archeologico regionale Antonino Salinas, 2: 43-44.

Tamburello I. (1996), Gli studî di Jole Bovio Marconi sull’antica civiltà del palermitano, in Quaderni del Museo archeologico regionale Antonino Salinas, 2: 33-37.

Tusa V. (1986), Jole Bovio Marconi, in Sicilia Archeologica, 29, nos. 60-61: 109-10.

Tusa V. (1996), Jole Bovio Marconi Soprintendente alle Antichità della Sicilia Occidentale, in Quaderni del Museo archeologico regionale Antonino Salinas, 2: 19-24

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