Palio

The origin of this series was a commission from the city of Ferrara in Tuscany, where they hold the oldest Palio in Italy. It is not as well-known as the one in Siena but it dates back to the end of the 13th century. On the first Sunday in May, eight contrades square up to one another. Eight groups, from different districts, with cultural rather than geographical affinities, take part in three races in the main square of the city – on foot, on donkeys, and on horseback. Each contrada parades in historical costume, joining the others after the race for a procession in honour of Lucrezia Borgia. Men and women in mediaeval outfits process in their colours under their own banner. Suits of armour with metal breastplates, long velvet kyrtles – all pass before the photographer’s lens. From time to time, the present day intrudes in the form of a car, or someone in street wear occupying the foreground or the surrounding space. Fréger had to work fast. The Palio is a great ritual with participants and spectators swarming around in high excitement. Lining up his shots was another race. And what Fréger was attempting to do was to pin down, among all this anachronism, the fact that these young people were sufficiently imbued with the culture of the Palio to have appropriated the tradition and improvised on it in their own way. In Fréger’s profiles and semi profiles there are strong echoes of Italian Quattrocento painting; one is immediately reminded, for example, of the diptych portrait of The Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca.