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Category: Art + Architecture

585. ossorio arana ◊

Born in the western outskirts of Buenos Aires in 1902, Arturo Ossorio Arana embarked on a military career that would lead him to participate in several military coups. Staunchly anti-peronista, he would also be complicit in hiding Eva Perón’s embalmed corpse… proof that friends & enemies rest side by side in Recoleta Cemetery.

In 1951, the Minister of the Army blamed Ossorio Arana for leading a group of young officers in a revolt against the Perón government. Relieved from duty, he tried to oust Perón again in 1955 with help from Pedro Aramburu & Eduardo Lonardi. Resulting civilian casualties were high after rogue military planes bombed Plaza de Mayo. However, Perón had been tipped off & took refuge in army headquarters just in time. A few months later, the military finally succeeded in taking control & attempted to wipe all traces of Peronism from Argentina.

As part of that plan, Ossorio Arana held the deceased Eva Perón captive for a while… but you’ll have to get the map/guidebook for that story! In the end, Ossorio Arana was more known for re-establishing martial law as Commander-in-Chief under Aramburu’s de facto presidency. In 1956, he gave permission to execute by firing squad a group of young people who had opposed the military government. Seven of 12 people shot would survive & later become immortalized in Rodolfo Walsh’s Operación Massacre.

The tomb of Ossorio Arana is striking with its gigantic, oversized statue of Argentina. A brilliant work by sculptor José Fioravanti, she represents Liberty with her sword ready for action. Ossorio Arana died in Buenos Aires in 1967, but the place & date on his tomb —Córdoba, 16 Sep 1955— correspond to the revolution that forced Perón to flee Argentina. Engraved scales represent Ossorio Arana’s belief in military justice.

His funeral drew a large crowd, with a multitude of military speakers & a large escort. La Nación reported that a couple people were arrested for public disturbance… one even shouting “Long live democracy!” Big thanks to Nicolás Colombo for sending us the images below… he runs the Misterios de La Plata blog & Facebook group.

Given his control over national affairs, memorials (like the one shown below) were common for several years after Ossorio Arana’s death. On the first anniversary, former President Aramburu gave a speech that was later engraved on the left side of the tomb:

“…If you fear the risks of Liberty, If you find safety in the obedience that despots impose… Do not stand before the tomb of this soldier!”

Image courtesy of the Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Cultura de Izquierdas, 1972.
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584. poli – antonio riva

What a stunning statue of an angel gazing towards the heavens by Luigi Trinchero. Invited to Argentina by fellow Italian artist Victor de Pol in 1889, Trinchero directed a ceramics factory in La Plata that ultimately did not succeed. Soon after its closure, he returned to Italy.

However, Trinchero came back to Argentina at the insistence of Carlos Morra & this time would succeed. He established a workshop to produce ornamental sculpture… exactly what Buenos Aires needed as many aristocratic porteños rekindled their European origins & a building boom began. Trinchero decorated the Centro Naval, churches, schools & most famously the Teatro Colón.

I believe the Poli family was involved in construction, but at the moment we have no solid information about the family who sought out such a famous artist to decorate their mausoleum.

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let us show you around…

Endless Mile, Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery guide

The list of occupants of Recoleta Cemetery reads like a Who’s Who of Argentine history & society. The elite, an aspiring middle class, friends, enemies & those who contributed to the general welfare of Argentina all share space in a miniature city of mausoleums & monuments.

During a visit, you’ll stroll past Presidents & politicians (some naughty, some nice), Nobel Prize winners, literary greats, entertainers, scientists, military leaders, sports figures & even some who died tragically. The cemetery’s most famous resident, Eva María Duarte de Perón —simply Evita to her devotées— even had a bizarre post-mortem journey before finally resting in peace in Recoleta.

Want to learn more? Get all the details in our recommended may & pdf guide. The authors of this blog are proud to have guided more than 1,500 people through Recoleta Cemetery… join in!

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581. lorenzo fernández de viana

Lorenzo Fernández de Viana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Álava

Born in 1866 in Lanciego —a small town in the southern Basque region of Álava, near the border with La Rioja— Lorenzo Fernández de Viana began his artistic career as a cabinet maker… but soon moved on to bigger & better things. After obtaining grants to study in Madrid & Paris, he returned to the local capital of Vitoria to open the only sculpture workshop in the city. As a result, his art decorates the new cathedral & he even taught aspiring students.

Viana left it all for Argentina in 1912, accompanied by his three daughters. His timing could not have been more perfect, with Argentina booming & numerous cities requesting European artists to decorate the nation. Viana’s stay in America was brief, but he left behind works in Mar de Plata & Buenos Aires. Gaze up to the Constitución train station to find representations of Agriculture & Commerce… fitting since this was the gateway to the Pampas (photo below). On their return to the Basque Country in 1916, his family moved to Bilbao where Viana passed away ten years later in 1926.

Buenos Aires, Constitución, estación de tren, train station

During the height of the pandemic, the Museum of Fine Arts in Álava found this blog & requested to use photos from the tomb of Adolfo Alsina in an upcoming exhibition. Viana was responsible for several reliefs depicting scenes from Alsina’s life. Always happy to assist, I was pleased to contribute & receive a catalog. If you’re in Vitoria, visit the free exhibition because they’ve done a wonderful job in rescuing the memory of such a great artist (runs until 20 Mar 2022).

Lorenzo Fernández de Viana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Álava
Lorenzo Fernández de Viana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Álava
Lorenzo Fernández de Viana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Álava
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578. peirano

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Peirano, Troiano Troiani

Signed by Italian architect Aldo Antonio Gaetano Flándoli, this striking Roman temple replica fails to attract much attention from visitors due to its location: a small walkway off a main path. The grandeur is also difficult to appreciate in such tight quarters but fortunately we have some artwork at eye level to appreciate.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Peirano, Troiano Troiani

Statues in the triangular pediment above as well as two door reliefs below are signed by another Italian immigrant, Troiano Troiani. The four Evangelists —Mark, Luke, John & Matthew— with their corresponding symbols flank larger depictions of Jesus & Mary. The descent of Christ from the cross is also shown in a lower center relief. Other works by Troiani in Recoleta Cemetery include a massive statue topping the Familia Manuel Cerini tomb as well as sculptures for the Familia D’onofrio. These are no less spectacular:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Peirano, Troiano Troiani
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Peirano, Troiano Troiani

My main question is who are the Peiranos & how did they afford such a luxurious final resting place? Instinct leads me to believe they are part of the Uruguay-based Peirano family, known for owning a huge number of businesses in South America including banks, public transportation plus supermarket chains Santa Isabel in Chile & Disco in Argentina (often gathered under the Grupo Velox brand). Uruguayan courts found three of four Peirano brothers guilty of money laundering & fraud in 2013… but are their relatives here in Buenos Aires?

The only plaque on the mausoleum lists four burials from the mid-20th century, with no trace of anyone on the internet. If you have information about Elitreo Strucchi, Margarita D’Abové de Peirano, Antonio Peirano or Luisa Subazzoli de Strucchi —or any of the Peiranos— please let us know!

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