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The Concert

At the end of the 1920s, parallel to his predominant research on the red men, Sassu’s attention turned to sacred subjects, with the manifest intention of bringing their iconography up to the preent day.

This desire, undoubtedly motivated by a personal need, which can also be found in painters like Stanley Spencer and Henri Van Straten, takes us back to the beginning of the debate on sacred art, influenced by the modernism of Maritain, which occurred in Milanese art circles in the early 1930s, with Persico among its protagonists.


The Last Supper

In these same years, the artist had frequent contact with Giuseppe Gorgerino, he too from Turin and close to Piero Gobetti, cultural editor of the newspaper L’Ambrosiano, which was one of the "locations" par excellence of Milanese intellectual circles.

The newspaper, for which Elio Vittorini, Guido Piovene, and Delio Tessa also wrote, had as its art critic Carlo Carrą; Carrą’s substitute, Renato Birolli, also worked as a proofreader, and for two or three months a year Sassu took his place in this job.



An early example of Sassu’s sacred art is the The Last Supper of 1929, in which his aspirations toward the modern finds expression in the diners gathered around the figure of Jesus, dressed according to the dictates of contemporary fashion, and in the landscape that can be glimpsed behind the room, presenting an urban reality in full development. The climate of the modernist debate is reflected also in the paintings shown in 1932 at the Galleria del Milione: Il figliuol prodigo, Deposition, and I figli di Isacco; on that same occasion Birolli presented San Zeno pescatore.

A prodigious quantity of studies, drawings, and watercolors preceded the creation of his first religious painting in the narrow sense, the Resurrezione that in 1933 he would exhibit at the first Mostra del Sindacato Nazionale delle Belle Arti in Florence, followed by the large Deposition now in the Vatican.

Religious themes - for example various versions of Crucifixion - were amply taken up again during the war years, characterized by a distancing from traditional iconography: the figure of Christ represents a wholly earthly suffering, and equally earthly, far from any form of spirituality, is the atmosphere emanating from the series of Councils, beginning in 1944.