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Tracking Down the Origins of a Mystery Mid-Century Mosaic in Milan: Lillian Sizemore

Mid-century mosaic mania continues on MAN this week with an article written by our own Miss Marble, Lillian Sizemore.  Here, the mosaic super-sleuth applies her years of research into mosaic genealogy to ferret out the possible origins of an unsigned work she discovered while strolling through the great city of Milan.

To recap:  On Monday, MAN reprinted an article by Dr. Ilona Jesnick from the British Association for Modern Mosaic’s journal,” Andamento”, profiling the Father of Modern Mosaics, Gino Severini. (here)  On Wednesday, we Tweeted a link to an excellent article published by The Eichler Network in their journal CA Modern: “Art in Pieces” on modern mosaics in which both Sizemore and artist Sonia King were featured. (here)  Sizemore contributed a great deal of the research and photographs used in this must-read article.

All in all, this week has served as a great “primer” for modern mosaics.  Expect to see more on this genre here on MAN in the months to come.

Enjoy – Nancie

WE DECLARE: That all subjects previously used must be swept aside in order to express our whirling life of steel, of pride, of fever and of speed.

— from The Futurist Manifesto, 1909

Mystery Mural in Milan Photo Lillian Sizemore

While strolling in the swank Monte Napoleone neighborhood of Milan, Italy near the Centro Storico, I spotted this dynamic glass mural in an apartment courtyard.  I was drawn in by the radiant central core, a throbbing abstract heart full of love and angst. I immediately recognized it’s mastery. I felt instinctively that it was reminiscent of the early Italian contemporary mosaic movement launched by Futurist, Gino Severini (1883-1966) and his protogé, abstract painter Ricardo Licata (b. 1929).  The mosaic is reminiscent of the Futurist’s restless style, the love of speed, movement, noise, and bold color. I suggest the piece was made between 1957 and 1959. Here’s why…

The company of S. Sgorlon Mosaici was based out of Friuli, Italy. That’s where the famous “Spilembergo School” of mosaic educational lineage is based. Mosaici Sgorlon were active in Milan in the 1950′s and executed enormous mosaic and glass projects mainly for churches in Northern Italy. I found a company brochure from 1953 for sale on eBay.

A. Sgorlon Brochure c. 1953

Within the mosaic laboratories working with the apprenticeship tradition, often produce accomplished masters who “graduate” and go on to start their own atelier, such as Luigi Bevilacqua, who trained in the Sgorlon lab in the 1950′s. The mosaic trade is historically passed through generations, between family members and brothers. In this case, the ‘S.’ of S. Sgorlon could stand for either Silvio or Secondo, both recorded on the family roster, and who might have been father and son, or younger and older brothers. The terms “Primo” (First) and “Secondo” (Second) are similar to “Senior” and “Junior” and also the first and second brothers born in a family are sometimes named just that. These terms are also endogenic identifiers used within apprenticeships, brotherhoods or craft guilds.

Most exciting for me was following the breadcrumbs to discover that Licata became Severini’s assistant in 1957, at Severini’s École d’Art Italienne in Paris.

Mystery Mosaic detail

Mystery Mural detail

The “mystery” mural measures about 8 ft x 15 ft. and though the work is not dated, Severini was very active in the mosaic movement in the mid-fifties, even hosting a conference on the history of mosaics in Ravenna. As shown in the photos above, the graphic icon would indicate that Licata was the designer, and Sgorlon signature indicates they executed the mosaic. At this time in mosaic history, it was de riguer to have a well-known artist design the “bozetto” or cartoon and work in close collaboration with a respected mosaic laboratory to render the work. Here is Renée Antoine’s French mosaic blog that features many of Licata’s signature mosaics from a 2009 exhibition and the shapes are very similar.

Mysterious mosaics, the story unfolds… Perhaps a wealthy industrialist commissioned the work for his apartment building? What do you think?

Mosaic by Licata

If you have any further information on the Sgorlons or this mosaic, please leave a comment below!

“Nella maggior parte dei casi, le forme piatte, in mosaico, sono un nonsenso. Tutto dipende però dalla formazione intellettuale e spirituale del mosaicista-artista che concepisce il cartone e prende a dirigere l’esecuzione.”

“In most cases, the flat forms, in mosaic, are nonsense. Everything depends on the intellectual and spiritual development of the mosaicist-artist who conceives the design and directs its execution.”

— Gino Severini, from “An Introduction on the Lessons of Mosaic” presented at the Academy of Fine Arts  in Paris.


  • This article is an undated version of one which appeared originally in July 2010 on Sizemore’s blog,   We highly recommend it.  The woman is always coming up with interesting takes on mosaics and the world around her.


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  1. Peter Sgorlon

    Read your article, very interesting!
    What was amazing to me was that there was a Shorlon involved. It’s not a common name and always great to have knowledge of the namesake in history. I’d be interested if there is ever any more information on the topic.


  2. Lilian S.

    Thank you for re-posting my article Nancie!. I am working hard on my PhD that addresses many of the themes I deal with here in this brief article. I look forward to sharing further insights with MAN readers. As always thank you for your support and for giving voice to such a dynamic field.
    Lillian Sizemore

    • Always a pleasure to bring more readers into the mosaic mind of Miss Marble, Lillian. Good luck with the PhD. Hope your studies will still leave time for more great writing here on MAN.

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