Joseph Natanson


Joseph Natanson, a Polish-born artist, who died in Rome at aged 94, began life as a Surrealist painter before being recruited in 1947 to do the special effects for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s film “The Red Shoes”.
He then became part of the Shepperton matte painting department in London.

Natanson was dispatched to Italy a number of times in the early 1950s, to participate in various international co-productions at Cinecitta in Rome, the new “Hollywood on the Tiber”

This followed Natanson’s move in the early 1950s from London to Italy, where he collaborated with many leading Italian filmmakers, including Vittorio De Sica, Sergio Leone, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Franco Zeffirelli, as well as numerous other visitors to Cinecitta, from John Huston to Joseph Mankiewicz.
In the end, he was involved in more than 80 films, the last of them Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Name of the Rose”.

His principal task was painting and filming “matte-shots”, miniature scenes and additional elements on glass, that were blown up by the camera to create magnificent backdrops cityscapes, vistas and details that would have been prohibitively expensive to construct, or impossible to engineer and co-ordinate while shooting the main action.

Long before the use of computerized effects, Natanson had ingenious tricks of the trade; for Mankiewicz’s “Cleopatra”, using a castle in the sea near Anzio as a point of view, he managed, with the landscape artist Mary Bone, to create a vast panorama of ancient Alexandria. However, after a delay in filming, when Elizabeth Taylor was indisposed, he noticed that due to a change in the weather, the distant chain of the Italian Apennines, until then shrouded in mist, had suddenly become startlingly visible. The sets were hastily repainted.

The read more about that Cleopatra story follow that link.

Natanson in 1946 in London.


Filming a matte-shot for Shepperton FX department.(1954)


Joseph Natanson with Federico Fellini


Natanson painting in his studio.


- La montagna di diamanti (1991)
- The name of the Rose (1986)
- Guerrieri dell’anno 2072, I (1984) (optical effects and miniatures)
- Casanova ( 1976)
- Fantozzia (1975) White collar blues
- Abe Sada (1975) A woman calla be sada
- Simona (1975)
- Lo chiameremo Andrea (1972) we will call him andrew
- brother sun sister moon. (1972)
- A girl in Australia (1971)
- Giu la testa (1971)
- The kremlin letter (1970)
- La torta in cielo (1970) cake in the sky
- Satyricon. (1969)
- Frailuen doctor (1969)
- La tenda rossa (1969) the red tent
- Dillinger e morto (1969)dillinger is dead
- La nonna e’ morta (1969)Oh grandmother is dead
- Ruba il prossimo tuo a fine pair (1969)
- Queimada (1969)
- Witches, The (1969) (special effects)
- Avventure di Ulisse (1968) The adventures of Ulysses
- Histoires extraordinaires (1968) (optical effects) (segment “Toby Dammit”)
- Tre passi nel delirio (1967) (special effects)
- Il Fischo al naso (1967) (special effects) the seventh floor
- La cintura di castita (1967)(special effects)
- Arabella (1967) (special effects)
- Arriva Dorellik (1967) (special effects)
- Reflection in a golden eye (1967)
- Colpo maestro al servizio di Sua Maesta (1967) Master stroke
- Uccellaci e uccellini (1966) hawks and sparrow
- The cavern (1966) (Special effects)
- Cast a giant shadow.(1966)(matte shots)
- Caccia alla volpe (1966)/ After the Fox (1966) (USA)(special effects)
- Mark Donen agente Z7 (1966) (special effects)
- Se tutte le monde del mondo (1966) (special effects) kiss the girsl and make them die
- Grande colpo dei sette uomini d’oro (1965) seven goleen man strikes again
- Les complexes (1965)
- Sette contra la morte (1965) (special effects) the cavern
- Montagna di luce, La (1965) / Temple of a Thousand Lights (USA)(special effects)
- Saul e David (1964) saul and David
- Belle famiglie, Le (1964) (special effects)
- Ercole sfida Sansone (1963)
- My son the hero(1963) (Spec effects)
- L’eroe di babilonia (1963) (special effects)
- Imperial Venus (1963)
- Cleopatra (1963) (special effects)
- The four days of Napoles 1962
- The nun of monza 1962
- Il Tiranno di Siracusa (1962)
- Boccaccio’70 (1962) (special effects)
- Arrivano i titani (1962) / The Titans (USA)(special effects)
- Le sette folgori di Assur (1962) (special effects)
- Giulio Cesare, il conquistatore delle Gallie (1962) (matte shots)
- Madame Sans-Gêne (1962)
- Ponzio Pilato (1962)
- L’ira di Achille (1962)
- Nefertiti, regina del Nilo (1961)
- Francis of Assis i (1961) (Spec effects)
- Le Triomphe de Michel Strogoff (1961)
- Maciste nella terra dei ciclopi (1961) (matte shots)
- Triunph of Maciste (1961 (matte shots)
- Il Ladro di Bagdad (1961)
- Il sepolcro del Re (1961)
- La Dolce Vita (1960)
- The Giant of metropolis (1960)(special effects)
- Ciociara, La (1960) (Two woman) (matte artist)
- Regina delle Amazzoni, La (1960) (special effects) Colossus and the Amazon Queen (USA)
- Contessa azzurra, La (1960) (special effects)
- Teseo contro il minotauro (1960) (matte shots)
- I Cosacchi (1960)
- La donna dei Faraón (1960) The pharaoh´s woman
- Giuseppe venduto dai fratelli (1960)
- Il Rossetto (1960)
- Archimède, le clochard (1959)
- Ferdinando I. re di Napoli (1959)
-  Sheba and the Gladiator  (1959) (special effects)
- Herod the  Great (1959) (special effects)
- Suor Letizia (1957)
- Sigfrido (1957)
- Il Corsaro della mezzaluna (1957) Pirate of the Half Moon
- Marcia nuziale weeding march (1956)
- Helen of Troy (1956) (special effects)
- Casta diva (1954) (special effects)
- Madame Butterfly (1954) (special effects)
The love of three Queens (1954) (special effects)
- Eterna Femmina (1954) (special effects)
- Symphony of Love (1954) (special effects)
- Ulisse (1954)
- Casa Ricordi (1954)
- I cavalieri dell’illusione (1954)
- Maddalena (1954)
- Lucrèce Borgia (1953)
- Puccini, (1953) (special effects)
- The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (1952) (special effects)
- The Red Shoes. (1947) (pictorial effects)