Sculptor, painter, designer, goldsmith and inventor, THAYAHT was an eclectic and innovative artist, a pioneer of new sensibilities. His poetry is distinguished for lines and synthetic shapes, which through a precise geometry express an exquisite elegance.
Ernesto Michahelles, also known as THAYAHT, was born in Florence on August 21, 1893 and spent his childhood and youth in the villa of his great grandfather at the Poggio Imperiale ,the renowned American neoclassical sculptor Hiram Powers. He began in Florence his studies, when he decided to stop and continue his education at the Technical Institute, where he was encouraged in the artistic work.
He continues his education joining the office of the painter Filippo Marfori Savini and the school of the American painter Julius Rolshoven, located in the Castello del Diavolo. He already displays his works under the pseudonym of Cheak, deciding to dedicate himself to the art thoroughly. Due to a severe hepatic disease the artist is forced to interrupt his research , until 1919, date on which he moved to Paris urged by Diaghilev and Massine. In this occasion he takes the first contacts for an occasional cooperation with the famous fashion house of Madeleine Vionnet, in Rue de Rivoli, for which he creates the logo.
In 1920, THAYAHT starts designing his most famous piece. The TuTa, which THAYAHT called “the most innovative, futuristic garment ever produced in the history of Italian fashion” was an early example of what we now know as overall, intended revolutionize fashion and create a modern and particular Italian style. With help from his artist brother RAM he launches the new design in 1920, and the pattern is published by the newspaper “La Nazione” so that the TuTa is accessible to all. Intended as a practical item of clothing for the everyday, it was instead adopted as a fad by high Florentine society. In the same year he adopted his pseudonym, the palindrome TAYAT, later changing into THAYAHT a “bifrontal” palindrome (visually symmetrical, it can be read from right to left, left to right, and in a mirror). In this period he cooperates with the Florentine Art Gallery Cavalensi and Botti and attends the gallery-bookshop of Errante Gonnelli, the core of the cultural and artistic avant-garde in Florence.
In 1921, following the success of his personal exhibition, he leaves for the United States where he spends a short time in Boston and Cambridge. While in the United States he attends courses at Harvard University on the colour technique, dynamic symmetry and the numeric absolute. The following year he reconfirms his collaboration with The Atelier of Madame Vionnet, the couturière credited with introducing the bias-cut to Parisian fashion who offers the artist a contract as designer to assure the exclusive use of his creations. He starts out by designing the logo for the Maison Vionnet, and quickly becomes responsible for the graphic presentation of her new models, many published in the magazine “Gazzette du Bon Ton”. THAYAHT also develops numerous patterns for printing on fabric that Vionnet uses for her dresses, and designs some original models. This collaboration will last until December 12,1924.
In 1922 Thayaht helps the creation of “Corporazione delle Arti Decorative” in Florence, to promote the collaboration between artists and artisans and the following year participates to the “Ist International Exposition of Decorative and Industrial Modern Arts” in Monza, with an array of furniture projected by himself and displayed along with Antonio Maraini’s sculptures. Meanwhile he purchases a house in Marina di Pietrasanta, naming it “Casa gialla”.
In 1924-25 he participates with his brother RAM at the formation of the First Guild of Fine Arts of Florence, creating its own crest and always together with his brother, wins the National Contest of Stage Design for the new staging of the “Aida”.
In 1927 he participates to the “III Esposizione Internazionale delle Arti Decorative e Industriali Moderne” of Monza and, the following year he is chosen by the “National Fascist Group of Straw”, as designer for new models of hats for men and women.
From 1929 he will publish his projects on “Moda”, official magazine for the “National Fascist Federation of Clothing Industry”, and in the same year, in May, meets Marinetti introduced by Primo Conti. In this occasion THAYAHT presents the steel-iron effigy of the “Dux” as a gift to Mussolini, thus officially joining the Futurist movement. In October of the same year, he joins the exhibition “Trentatré Futuristi”, at the Galleria Pesaro in Milan, with three sculptures and fifteen paintings.
The same year, he takes part at the “1929 Barcelona International Exposition” winning the gold medal for his invention of the taiattite.
The following year he participates to the “IV Esposizione Triennale Internazionale delle Arti Decorative ed Industriali Moderne” in Monza, exposing furniture and items made of taiattite, an alloy of silver and aluminium invented by himself. In the meanwhile he is invited at the “XII Biennale Internazionale d’Arte” of Venice, where he exhibits in the futurist room six sculptures. He also takes part at the “Mostra Internazionale dell’Orafo” where he presents a showcase with jewelry in taiattite.
In 1931 he is invited to the “Ist Quadriennal of National Art in Rome”, where exposes his first aerosculpture, “Victory of the Air”. Then, he organizes along with Marasco, the “Futurist Exhibition of Painting, Sculpture, Aeropainting, Decorative Arts, Architecture” at the Art Gallery of Florence for the Tuscan Futurist group and then joins the “First Aeropainting Exhibition” along with the likes of Balla, Ballelica, Benedetta, Diulgheroff, Dottori, Fillia, Prampolini, Somenzi and Tato, organized by the Gallery “La camerata degli Artisti”in Rome. On April 10 , of this year he replies on the newspaper of Genova “Indice” to an article of Ezra Pound about futurist sculpture, where the artist claims that there is a chance to represent an object in a plane in three dimensions thanks to a new technique, described as “Traiettiva”.
The following year, in 1932, he joins the exhibition “Enrico Prampolini et les Aeropeintres Futuristes Italiens” at the Galerie de la Renaissance in Paris. On May of the same year he exposes his sculpture “The Diving” at the “XVIII Biennale di Venezia”. His first monography is published in Florence and presented by Marinetti, Antonio Maraini and Fortunato Bellonzi. At last, along with his brother RAM, he elaborates always in 1932 the “Manifesto per la trasformazione dell’abbigliamento maschile”.
In the following years, he will also partecipate to the “Biennale di Venezia” before in 1934 and then in 1936.
Since the 40’s he quits his public activity in Florence to definitely retire in his villa of Marina di Pietrasanta (Lucca) , portraying Tahitian figures revaluating the research of Paul Gauguin and his role as a colorist and a symbolic painter, in search of a simpler life at the origins of the world.
Between 1956 and 1959 he continues his studies in science and astronomy growing an interest for ufology and founds the C.I.R.N.O.S
He dies in Marina di Pietrasanta (LU) on April 29, 1959 and he is buried at “Cimitero degli Allori” in Florence.
Biography by Alessandra Scappini in collaboration with the THAYAHT & RAM Archive