After the Great War

It was 1913 when, in the same area which saw the building of Villa Simonetta in the 16th century,three partners, Ercole Battaglia (the former foundry manager at Necchi), Giulio Pogliani (a moulder) and Riccardo Frigerio (a chiseller) set up the “Battaglia, Pogliani and Frigerio Fine Art Foundry”.

It was the turn of the century and art’s two souls were blending into the elusive and decadent Liberty atmosphere against the backdrop of the Futurist din; but the period’s avant-garde had but a peripheral impact on the Foundry, which still breathed the transitional atmosphere straddling the two centuries. The three partners, starting out on their own after years spent working for other Fine Art Foundries, could leverage the experience they had gained, thus earning the favour of a number of noble artists of that period.

Between Vercelli and Vicenza, passing through Milan, here are some of the artists who chose to cast their sculptures at the Battaglia Foundry: Vitaliano Marchini, to reproduce his figures, Giambattista Tedeschi, Luigi Panzeri and Antonio Rescaldini, and later on Guido Righetti, Enrico Astori, Alfredo Sassi, Confalonieri, Paolo Sozzi and Giulio Branca. Milan was at the crossroads of this adventure, by way of its impressive museums: from Guido Righetti’s lifelike Antelopes at the Museum of Natural History, to Adolfo Wildt’s Concezione (Milan 1968-1931), completed in 1921, at the Museum of Science and Technology, to its most majestic cemetery, the Cimitero Monumentale, where prayer is joined by the aesthetic experience of sacred and profane. After only a few months of activity, war broke out, two of the partners were called to arms but immediately exempted because of their skills and put in charge of an industrial foundry. They were tough years, but the work continued: by day at the industrial foundry, by night at the Battaglia.

Meanwhile, as the war drew to a close, the nostalgia for the old profession of bronze artist brought Ercole Battaglia’s brother, Vittorio, back from America, and his return marked the beginning of recovery. Francesco Vecchi joined as a new partner and the foundry bought the land and the factory at no. 13, Via Gran San Bernardo. The protagonists of this new era gave voice to the pain and the urge to remember; the transition into the new century had been abruptly interrupted by the war and the young and reckless tone of the historical avant-garde had come of age. The tireless genius of Giannino Castiglioni joined the able Battaglia team on many occasions, creating with Gaetano Moretti the Antenna Porta-bandiera donated by the Italian colony to the city of Buenos Aires and the War Memorial of Magenta (1925), while the figures of the Ultima Cena in the Campari shrine (1935, Cimitero Monumentale of Milan), solemnly converse with the surrounding space, reinterpreting Leonardo’s Last Supper in one of the most famous monuments in the whole Milanese cemetery.