Breveglieri Cesare, Saint Martin
works associated

1,932; oil on canvas
cm. 110 x 81
signed and dated bottom left: “C. Breveglieri 1932 X”; on the back of the frame, printed label: “77”
Inventory: AI00015AFC
Provenance: 1933, gift of the artist
Exibition: 1932, Milano, Accademia di Brera, Mostra del Pensionato Sarfatti, n. 77 (catalogo non pubblicato)

In a letter dated 20 March 1933, now in the Banca Intesa archives, the Cariplo executive Angelo Rossini thanks the painter Cesare Breveglieri for the gift of a painting that can be identified as the Saint Martin considered here.
This gesture marked the end of the close relationship with the bank that began in 1930, when the artist won the competition for the Sarfatti Scholarship with Maternity (present location unknown), presented the following year in the ‘XVIII Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia’. The scholarship had been created in 1924 in memory of the lawyer and Cariplo president Cesare Sarfatti, who died the same year on 24 January. His wife Margherita was an art critic and a major figure on the Milanese art scene in the 1920s. The scholarship offered a excellent opportunity for training with one study period of six months in Rome and another in Paris followed by a solo show at the Brera Academy.
The events of those years are precisely documented in the correspondence between Breveglieri and Rossini, from the purchase of the painting The Two Sisters for the Museo Mussolini in Palazzo Caffarelli on the Capitol in Rome (now the Galleria comunale d’Arte Moderna) to the discovery of the art scene in Paris, where the artist experienced great financial hardship that sometimes forced him to do without models and materials, and to make constant requests for advance payments.
The choice of the subject for the painting to be donated to the Cariplo at the end of the scholarship, in accordance with the regulations, must have been taken when the artist found himself in these dire straits. The legend of the saint who cut his cloak in two and shared it with a pauper not only alludes to the bank’s charitable works but also and above all constitutes a personal expression of gratitude for the financial assistance received.
The painting, dated 1932, was exhibited together with a large number of landscapes in the solo show held in the October of that year at the Brera Academy to mark the end of the scholarship. The exhibition aroused little interest on the part of critics, who drew attention in particular to the influence of André Derain, a model studied by the artist together with Maurice Utrillo and Henri Rousseau.
The Parisian experience led Breveglieri to develop a personal stylistic approach. In contrast with the coeval work of the Novecento Italiano group, he endowed his landscapes and scenes of everyday life with a timeless, enchanted atmosphere through the adoption of a simplified vocabulary and the use of bright, glowing colours. His personal cultural background was combined with study of the work of the 15th-century painters seen during a stop in Florence in 1931 on his way to Rome, and the primitive work of Carlo Carrà.
The influence of these models can be seen in the clear, solid draughtsmanship and bright colour of the Cariplo painting, which transposes the popular religious episode into a fairytale dimension in much the same way as the coeval religious art developed in Milan during the 1930s.

Sources:Archivio Storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Patrimonio Archivistico Cariplo, Fondo storico. Addenda, serie Sussidi, Fald. n. 4 (Borse di studio. Pensionato artistico Cesare Sarfatti)


Leo Lecci, Cesare Breveglieri, San Martino, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d'arte. Il Novecento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 2000, n. 43, p. 69, ill.

Elena Lissoni
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