La smorfia – How Luca Indraccolo titles his paintings

If you’re familiar with Luca Indraccolo’s works you’ll know that they’re frequently painted in response to scenes, objects and themes from his home town of Naples. You’ve probably also noticed that Luca never gives them easily understandable titles. Instead, he gives them strings of numbers. We asked him why.

Lot 5: Tell us about how you name your works.

Luca: In Naples there’s a book called ‘La Smorfia’. Neapolitans use it to translate their dreams into numbers that they can use to enter – and hopefully win – the state lottery (il Lotto).

Lot 5: Tell us a bit more about ‘La Smorfia’

Luca: Nobody knows where the name comes from: some people claim the name is derived from Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. In my opinion that’s not too much of a stretch given the origin of the city itself as a Greek settlement and the fact that some words in our dialect are still very closely linked to that ancient language.

Any way, every word translates to one or more numbers between 1 and 90, depending in its context. Say you had a dream about a fish. That would translate to the numbers – among others – of 17, 46, 27 or 74, depending on whether you were catching the fish, smoking it, roasting it or eating it. You would then choose other numbers that corresponded to the rest of your dream and use those numbers to enter the lottery.

“SMF 74.1.9” by Luca Indraccolo, 25 x 35 cm, oil on canvas

Lot 5: How do you apply this to your paintings?

Luca: I select key words that describe the image and the feeling of the piece by looking those words up in La Smorfia. I prefix those numbers with the letters SMF (for Smorfia) as a code to name the painting. Things get tricky, though when the same number means something else in a different context (I never said it was a perfect science!).

Lot 5: That’s how you name them. But why do you use this system?

Luca: Yes, this leaves people somewhat confused as I’m often asked what the numbers mean. The whole point is that I don’t want to influence people’s interpretation of the work with a descriptive title. I love it when people find their own meaning in a work of art.