In a small picture permanently exposed in the Guggenheim Museum in New York and shot by the great photographer Mario De Biasi entitled “Italians look back” you can have a glance on the style of an era: you see, taken from behind, a girl in a morning of the year 1953 that walks in Piazza Duomo of Milan surrounded by a curtain of male gaze, allured by her provocative forms. That girl, at the beginning of her long career, is Moira Orfei that in this country is synonymous of Circus..
Born in the north-east of Italy in 1931 to a family dedicated to this activity, she founded her own circus in 1960 becoming Italy’s most famous rider, trapeze artist, acrobat, elephants tamer and doves trainer. Her real name Miranda in Latin means “worthy of admiration” and it’s hard to think of a more suitable name for such an eccentric and exuberant personality.
The cinema producer Dino de Laurentis invented the look that has characterized her public image until her death which occurred on November 15 of this year, a few weeks before her eighty-fourth birthday. She shot 40 movies with directors like Lattuada, Visconti, Germi, De Sica and she was a friend of Federico Fellini who had a very strong passion for the circus, always invoked in his oneiric imagery.
Completely identified with her character, Moira, embellished with her turbans, gaudy jewelry, big hair and a camper that would have made envious a sheikh, has walked all through the twentieth century as a nomad queen, imposing her big, suspiciously smooth face on fluorescent backgrounds on our cities walls for more than half a century.
She was a gay icon and one of the most truly pop images of this country and for this reason we want to remember her as an unforgettable, joyful decor.
Photo credit: Luca Merli – cover photo and 1st photo on top slide show.