Scherzo: uova (Le uova sulla tavola) (Le uova sul tappeto verde)

Scherzo: Eggs (Eggs on a Table) (Eggs on a Green Carpet)

c. 1914

Accession year 1993-99

Tempera on cardboard, 49 x 59 cm (without frame); 54.7 x 65 x 3.6 cm (with frame)

Signed and dated on the bottom right: “F. Casorati 1914”

Collection Fondazione Francesco Federico Cerruti per l’Arte

Long-term loan Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin

Inv. no. CC.23.D.CAS.1914.A81

Provenance: Private collection (A.B.), Turin; Luigi Carluccio, Turin.

Exhibitions: Rome 1915 (p. 42, no. 3); Verona 1918a (no. 48, with the title Le uova sulla tavola); Verona 1918b (no. 11); Turin 1918 (p. 9, no. 33, with the title Le uova sulla tavola and the date 1915); [Venice 1919, p. 44, no. 242, with the title Le uova]; Turin 1964a (no. 30, ill.); Verona 1971 (p. 23, no. 37, ill.); Acqui Terme 1973 (no. 3, ill.); Florence 1976-77 (no. 10); Ferrara 1981° (no. 10); Rome 1983a (pp. 8, 17, ill.); Genoa 1984 (no. 51, with the title Uova sulla tovaglia verde); Turin 1985a (pp. 35, 62-64 no. 3, ill.); Verona 1986 (no. 45); Milan-Düsseldorf 1990 (pp. 29-34, 60, no. 12, ill.); Aosta 2004 (p. 76, no. 7); Ravenna-Trieste 2007 (p. 76, ill.).

Bibliography: Fiumi 1919, p. 70 (with the title Le uova sulla tavola); Gobetti 1923, p. 95 (with the title Le uova sul tappeto verde); Nasalli Rocca 1923; Venturi L. 1923, pp. 244, 246, 254, ill. (with the title Uova sulla tavola and the date 1913); Bernardi 1937a; Cremona 1940, p. 19; Galvano 1940, pp. 14, 16; Galv ano 1947, pp. 15, 17; Carrieri 1950, p. 177, no. 211, ill.; Carluccio 1964, p. 21, no. 23, ill.; Carluccio 1966; Mila 1973, p. 74; Valsecchi 1977, p. 10; Carluccio 1980, p. 31; Dragone A. 1984, no. 2, ill.; Dragone A. 1986, p. 109; Venice 1989, p. 620, ill.; Bertolino, Poli 1995, pp. 209-210, no. 114, ill.; F. Poli, “Felice Casorati. Note di lettura,” in Turin 1996a, p. 28, ill.; G. Bertolino, “Dal repertorio di oggetti alle prime nature morte (1910-20)”, in Iseo 1997, p. 20, ill.; Bertolino, Poli 2004, p. 127, no. 114; G. Bertolino, “Come deve essere una sala da esposizione? La funzione di Ca’ Pesaro nella carriera di Felice Casorati,” in Portinari 2018, p. 117; The Cerruti Collection 2019, p. 67, ill.

Eggs were emblematic of Felice Casorati’s painting, appearing in his work for the first time in this tempera on cardboard of 1914, which acts as something of a template for his later work.

Eggs were emblematic of Felice Casorati’s painting, appearing in his work for the first time in this tempera on cardboard of 1914, which acts as something of a template for his later work. It was presented with the title Scherzo: uova (Scherzo: Eggs) in the artist’s solo exhibition at the Terza Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Secessione, in Rome in 1915, together with another two entitled Scherzi: marionette (Scherzos: Puppets)1 and the lost Fiordalisi (Cornflowers). In the list published in the Roman catalogue, the three titles were given in brackets, as if to reiterate how the musical form of the joke is something of an interlude, a playful and lively experiment. In the painting in the Cerruti Collection, this explicit reference to sound is translated by the painter – an amateur pianist – into a score. Constructed on counterpoint, it is achieved by juxtaposing a constellation of twenty-two eggs on a tablecloth with circular motifs. Outlined by a thin blue line, the white ellipses float on the pattern of malachite green bubbles against an indigo background, reverberated by the use of perspective in a potentially infinite echo. The almost abstract optical effect is intensified by the use of tempera and the matt hues of the mineral pigments. Among the works on display in the hall in Rome, this unusual still life must have acted as a sort of “third movement”, a free fantasy within the collection that, in addition to the Scherzi, included a group of Compositions and two glazed terracotta sculptures.2

Born in Novara, Felice Casorati lived with his family in Padua and Naples, where his father worked in the military. Felice devoted himself to painting after completing a degree in law. When he exhibited in the Secessione exhibition in 1915 he was living in Verona and spending a lot of time in Venice, the city where he made his debut at the 1907 Biennale and where he frequented the Ca’ Pesaro circle of artists at the time: Tullio Garbari, Gino Rossi, Arturo Martini, Ubaldo Oppi, Pio Semeghini and the director Nino Barbantini. It was through his relationship with this Venetian institution, designed to promote young artists and innovative exhibitions and displays, that Casorati found an opportunity for critical dialogue. There he absorbed ideas and models useful for reworking a style that he had developed as a self-taught artist, progressing from the naturalism of his early years to a symbolism inspired by Klimt, sealed by the teeming night-time image of the Via Lattea (Milky Way), the title of a series of paintings and engravings and of a small magazine (Via Lattea) that he founded in 1914.

The war, fought on the front in Trentino, distanced him from painting: the inventive capacity of the Eggs, which had proved a cornerstone of the Roman exhibition, remained silent and inactive for four years, before re-emerging in 1918 on the walls of two exhibitions in Verona, followed by an exhibition at the Circolo degli Artisti in Turin, the city where he moved after his father’s suicide in 1917. Casorati summed himself up, finding a new starting point in his sequence of Uova (Eggs, renamed Le uova sulla tavola [Eggs on a Table]), Marionette (Puppets) and Giocattoli (Toys) of 1915,3 which acted as the nucleus for the creation of a new work cycle. “I believe that these still lifes (penance for the spirit) are really mine and that [one] can find the seeds of what I now produce in them,”4 he wrote in 1919 in a letter to his friend, the poet and art writer Lionello Fiumi who glimpsed in those “very lively still lifes” the resolution of the decoration and arabesque in “daring discords, harmonised by the master”.5

The Eggs of 1914 are the most direct precedent to the Le uova sul cassettone (Eggs on a Chest of Drawers) of 1920,6 one of Casorati’s most iconic pieces: “The painter’s hand revives from inertia one, two, three, numerous ellipses that have not dried up inside […] The memory of the first ‘Eggs on a Green Carpet’ is solidified in these other ‘Eggs’ […] it accommodates the light, producing a shadow,” as the critic and artist Italo Cremona wrote in 1942.7

Exhibited in the posthumous exhibition of Casorati’s work at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna in Turin in 1964, the tempera was chosen for the cover of the monograph published in the same year by Luigi Carluccio. Part of the critic’s personal collection, Le uova sul tappeto verde (Eggs on a Green Carpet) (according to the title introduced by Piero Gobetti as early as 1923) represents an important piece in the studies dedicated to Casorati prima di Torino, the exhibition promoted in 1983-84 by Federico Riccio and Angelo Dragone at the Galleria Le Immagini in Turin and at Palazzo Bianco in Genoa,8 then by Sergio Marinelli with the exhibition at the Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona.9 It was included in the selection canonised by the scientific research of Maria Mimita Lamberti and Paolo Fossati, promoted for the anthological exhibitions of 1985 in Turin and 1990 in Milan, which then travelled to Düsseldorf, and the General Catalogue of 1995. Purchased by Francesco Federico Cerruti in the 1990s,10 the 1914 painting joined Mattino (Morning) of 1919-20 and Bambino nello studio (Boy in the Studio) of 1937, already present in the collection, giving the Casorati group a chronological range that brings together and documents the key passages of the artist’s research.

[Giorgina Bertolino]

1 Bertolino, Poli 1995, pp. 207-208, no. 108.

2 In addition to a Scherzo: Puppets, the Compositions on display included Two Figures, Composition: Figures on the Hill (Bertolino, Poli 1995, p. 208, no. 109 and pp. 208-209, no. 110) and the sculptures Ada and Red Mask (Bertolino, Poli 2004, pp. 65-66, nos. 8SC and 6SC). The paintings Green Necklace and Scherzo: Cornflowers are now lost.

3 Bertolino, Poli 1995, pp. 211-212, no. 119. The title Eggs, with the indication “tempera”, appears in the catalogue of the Venetian exhibition at Palazzo Pesaro in August 1919 (Venice 1919, p. 44, no. 242), together with Puppets and Toys. Although Casorati had already painted a second version of the eggs by this date (Eggs on a Table, in Bertolino, Poli 1995, p. 220, no. 138), it is likely that in this case too he chose to reproduce the Scherzo of 1914, recreating the “triptych” already presented in Turin in 1918.

4 Letter from Felice Casorati to Lionello Fiumi, 18 September 1919, now in Bologna G. [2015], np.

5 Fiumi 1919, p. 70.

6 Bertolino, Poli 2015, pp. 230-322, no. 162.

7 Cremona 1942, np.

8 The Casorati prima di Torino exhibition, which opened in April 1983 at the Galleria Le Immagini in Turin, curated by Federico Riccio and introduced in the catalogue by an essay by Angelo Dragone, draws attention to the artist’s production during his time in Padua, Naples and Verona. The Eggs of 1914, not present in Turin, were instead exhibited during the exhibition’s next stop in Palazzo Bianco in Genoa in January-February 1984.

9 Verona 1986.

10 In all likelihood after 1993, considering that the painting does not feature in the handwritten inventory, dated 30 June of that year, of the assets in the villa in Rivoli.