Grosso Giacomo, Portrait of the Honourable Cesare Sarfatti, Lawyer
works associated

1,926; oil on canvas
cm. 93,5 x 123
Signed and dated bottom right: "GGrosso - 926"
Inventory: AI00069AFC

In 1902, Cesare Sarfatti, a Jewish lawyer, moved from Venice, where he had been born in 1866, to Milan. Together with his young wife Margherita Grassini – who was to become a leading figure in Milanese artistic circles, and the founder and supporter of the Novecento Italiano movement – he established contacts with the main protagonists of the political and cultural life in the capital city of Lombardy. He was elected deputy in 1913, and ten years later on 1 August 1923, he was appointed president of the Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, though he only held that office for a few months, due to his sudden death on 24 January 1924. During that brief period Sarfatti distinguished himself as a patron of the arts, by launching the policy of purchases that was soon to lead the Cassa di Risparmio to possess a major art collection. The works produced by the winners of the art scholarship set up in his memory in 1924, also entered the Collection, these included The Siesta by Augusto Colombo, Saint Martin by Cesare Breveglieri and View of Varenna from Vezio by Piero Fornasetti.

The idea of a gallery of portraits of Cassa di Risparmio presidents also dates from 1924. The first work commissioned by Giuseppe De’ Capitani d’Arzago, who became president after Sarfatti, was the Portrait of the Lawyer Giuseppe Marcora by Antonio Pasinetti. From archival documents we learn of negotiations, also in 1924, between Pasinetti and De’ Capitani d’Arzago for the execution of Sarfatti’s portrait, but in the end the work was commissioned from Giacomo Grosso, who executed it in 1926. As in many other cases – to cite only one example the Portrait of Count Aldo Annoni by Cesare Tallone – Grosso painted the work from a photograph. Sarfatti is seated at his desk intent on his work, an iconography that was popular in portraits of the upper middle class and which the painter from Turin repeated in at least one other work, the Portrait of the Engineer Vittorio Tedeschi (1925, Turin, private collection). Grosso’s success with the members of that social class and his skill as a portraitist are probably why he was chosen by the Cassa di Risparmio. In this work in the Collection the precise rendering of the physiognomy and the remarkable study of the hands, as well as the highly detailed description of the objects on the desk’s surface, combine to create a very effective life-like portrait.

Sources:no document found


Alberto Cova - Anna Maria Galli, Finanza e sviluppo economico-sociale. La Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde dalla fondazione al 1940, vol. IV, Cariplo-Laterza, Bari, 1991, ill. p. 31;
Sergio Rebora, Giacomo Grosso, Ritratto dell'onorevole avvocato Cesare Sarfatti, in Sergio Rebora, a cura di, Le collezioni d’arte. Il Novecento, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde, Milano, 2000, n. XV, p. 350, ill.

Laura Casone
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