Fornasetti delivered this painting together with the etching Shells to the Cariplo in 1940 as works marking the conclusion of his two-year Cesare Sarfatti art scholarship (1938–39). Other works now belonging to the Cariplo Collection as a result of this grant, founded in 1924 in honour of the bank’s recently deceased president, include Siesta by Augusto Colombo and Saint Martin by Cesare Breveglieri. Fornasetti was the last to hold this scholarship, which was worth 12,000 lire a year during his tenure, as it was transformed into a more modest annual prize in 1940. The archives provide rich and interesting documentation of the two-year period 1938–39. Fornasetti won the painting scholarship competition in September 1937 with Assistance for the Young (present location unknown), an allegorical depiction of the Fascist regime’s activities to assist the growth and development of children and adolescents based on the canons of the Novecento Italiano movement. This enabled him to visit the monuments and galleries in Rome during the early months of 1938 and then set off for South Africa on a training voyage organised by the Italian Navy League, starting from Trieste and stopping at cities like Massawa, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Durban and Cape Town. He spent much of 1939 working in Milan with trips to Turin to visit the Egyptian Museum and to Santa Margherita Ligure to work on studies from life. As from the first year of work, Fornasetti combined painting (the titles mentioned in the records include Butterfly Seller, Puppets, Clown, Self-Portrait and St Ursula) with numerous studies of decorative art (designs for fabrics and ceramics, shop window displays and stage sets), some of which intended for the ‘VII Triennale di Milano’ in 1940. It was at the Milan Triennial that Fornasetti made his debut in 1933 with a printed silk scarf and in the field of decorative art that he obtained his greatest success with popular series of furniture and objects like Theme and Variations. The painting in the Cariplo Collection is an early work and one of his few landscapes. It shows the village of Varenna as seen from the Castle of Vezio over Lake Como. Fornasetti used to stay there in his father’s villa, which he redecorated with specially created furniture, fabrics and objects. As in the work with which he won the scholarship, Fornasetti’s painting again shows evident links with Novecento Italiano. The concentration of forms and volumes in a predominantly vertical space devoid of perspective recalls the stylistic devices of the 14th-century on which the movement focused within the more general context of a return to classicism. The close connection with reality, in this case a landscape with a timeless atmosphere, is also marked by the influence of Magical Realism, a movement associated with Novecento Italiano within the broader context of the “return to order”. Fornasetti was able to develop his understanding of Magical Realism through his close connections with the Milanese art scene world as well as the extensive reading that he did during his scholarship.


  • Title: View of Varenna from the Castle of Vezio
  • Creator: Piero Fornasetti
  • Date: 1939/1939
  • Signature, Inscription: Piero Fornasetti / XVII
  • Physical Dimensions: w79,5 x h99,5 cm (Without frame)
  • Exhibition: Centro Congressi Palazzo Melzi d'Eril, via Romagnosi, 8, Milano
  • Provenance: Cariplo Foundation, 1940
  • Type: Painting, oil on panel
  • Rights: http://www.artgate-cariplo.it/en/disclaimer.html
  • External Link: www.artgate-cariplo.it

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