The ‘cut’ paintings of the Italian artist Lucio Fontana (1899 – 1968) are intensely sexual objects. For many viewers, their rawly coloured surfaces ruptured by deep vertical gashes strongly evoke female genitalia. Fontana’s violent cutting of the canvas has also been compared to the muscular gestures of male ‘action’ painters such as Jackson Pollock. What such interpretations fail to grasp, however, is the critique of gender identity, and in particular masculine identity, at the heart of Fontana’s work. However, as I will show, Fontana relied on an inversion of diametrically opposed notions of maleness and femaleness rather than any deconstruction of the opposition itself. As I outline in my paper, Fontana’s critique first emerges in the artist’s depictions of the male body immediately after Italy’s military defeat in WWII. Fontana’s limp and mangled clay warriors splashed with oozing layers of reflective glaze directly challenge the hard, ballistic ideal of the masculine body theorized in the proto-fascist writings of the Italian Futurist poet Filippo Tomasso Marinetti. Drawing on the work of Hal Foster and Jeffrey Schnapp on the representation of fascist masculinity, I argue that Fontana developed an alternative model of maleness to that encountered in the official culture of Mussolini’s Italy. Accordingly, as I also demonstrate, his work gives insight into the extraordinary transformations in male body imagery that took place in avant-garde and official cultural circles in Italy during the first half of the 20th century.