Well known pleasures: in search of where Joy Division cover art came fromWell known pleasures: in search of Joy Division iconography at Staglieno Monumental Cemetery, Genoa, Italy by Fabio Pasquarelli.


Everybody knows Peter Saville’s iconic covers for Joy Division’s “Closer” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. These artworks feature majestic neo-classical statues, which can be found in Staglieno Monumental Cemetery in Genoa, a beautiful city squeezed between the sea and the mountains in Northern Italy.

Staglieno is a 330000 square meters area, with over 2 millions graves, and has spaces for different religious cults: Catholic, Protestant, Israelite, Orthodox, Muslim as well as an area for English people, both soldiers and civils.

The cemetery was opened in 1851, and many key characters of Italian history are buried there: Giuseppe Mazzini, one of the founding fathers of the Italian Republic, literate Fernanda Pivano, actor Gilberto Govi, songwriter Fabrizio De Andrè. Even Constance Lloyd, Oscar Wilde’s wife rests under the mountains of Genoa Staglieno.
Authors, philosophers, intellectuals, and painters were all fascinated by the magnetism of Staglieno over the years: Friedrich Nietzsche, Guy de Maupassant, Mark Twain, Evelyn Waugh, Ilja Repin took inspiration from long and quiet walks on the paths and under the cloisters of the cemetery.

The area is enormous, and it’s easy to get lost among a huge quantity of beautiful statues and family tombs.
Symbolism, suggestions, power: true pieces of art enchant the visitor all along the way.

Me and my friends were a bit shy to get our cameras out in a cemetery, but the greatness of the statues pulled us to do our best to capture the magic of the place, in a cloudy Sunday afternoon in January.

The fascination of Staglieno gets even more darker and mysterious when bound to the story of Joy Division.

The statue on the cover of Joy Division’s “Closer” LP comes from a picture by French photographer Bernard Pierre Wolff, which has been assembled on the white background with the notoroius lettering by British graphic designers Peter Saville and Martyn Atkins.

The photo depicts a family grieving at the deathbed: it’s the Appiani family tomb, by sculptor Demetrio Paernio.

The tomb is easily reachable from the main entrance, just take second hallway on the left, and the tomb is the first one on the right.

The one on “Love Will Tear Us Apart” single (once again taken by an original photo by Bernard Pierre Wolff) is the Ribaudo family tomb, by Italian sculptor Onorato Toso (circa 1910).

On the Joy Division cover the main subject is taken by the angel, but the tomb itself features a really interesting decoration. With the diffusion of the Decadent and Symbolist cultures at the beginning of the last century, the role of the angel became more and more non-religious, carrying sensual and mysterious aspects over. The exotic and exoteric part of that tomb is well stated by the Egyptian subjects all around the stone where the angel lays.

This tomb is easily reachable too, just take the right at the main entrance, until the hallway crosses a another perpendicular one. Take the perpendicular direction and take a look to the right, the tomb is one of the first you’ll encounter.

Apart from the famous “Joy Division subjects” the Staglieno Monumental Cemetery offers great views and inspirations, and it’s certainly worth a visit wether you’re a Joy Division fan or not. Here’s a selection of shots taken during that gloomy Sunday in Genoa.


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  1. Thanks a lot for this! Do you happen to know when Wolff took the photos? Were they specially done for the records, or were they found in a book?


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