The problem with d’Annunzio lies instead with his suffocating and relentless self-centredness and need for fame. His life, his dress, his love-making, his going to war — everything was so minutely stage-managed with an eye to how it would appear in the press or in the histories. Although Ms Hughes-Hallett valiantly teases out a few timorous examples to the contrary, it is almost impossible to believe in any spontaneous act of humility or empathy in the man. There are acts of beauty, but these are often sinister and his story serves largely to show the moral emptiness of pure aestheticism.
Review of Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s biography of Gabriele d’Annunzio, in The Economist, January 12th, 2013
Yes, there’s a sinister side to the highly refined aesthetic sensibility. Perfection and beauty experienced in a way that is too conscious, too rarefied — far from the gnarly core of our messy mortal selves.
Maybe for those among us who have a void where their heart should be, pure aestheticism offers a protective disguise; a simulacrum of feelings through which to interface with the world.