Painted in oil on canvas en grisaille to imitate classical stone reliefs, the panels were completed by the Roman artist for the Esposizione Internazionale del Sempione or Milan International of 1906. The scenes were devised to reflect and glorify Italy’s history and decorated the Lazio Room, which exhibited paintings by Sartorio as well as Camillo Innocenti and Umberto Coromaldi among others.
Each measuring 3ft 2in x 5ft 3in (98cm x 1.61m), the pair of panels are just a fraction of the entire programme. They represent two allegorical scenes: From the Great Discoveries, Through the Gloomy Ages to the Living Revival of the Race and From the Myth of Brute Forces Tamed to the Most Recent Achievements of Science.
The second of these was the final scene in the scheme, which started with the fall of the Roman Empire.
In 1923 Sartorio reworked some of the frieze adapting it for the royal yacht Italia. However, the two scenes acquired by the museum retain their original structure.
The paintings were rediscovered by Antonacci Lapiccirella in a private collection. A third panel from the same source, The Advent of Art and Culture, is set to be offered at the firm’s stand at TEFAF Maastricht for around €300,000. Of the three, it was the most extensively reworked in the 1920s. The location of the remaining parts of the frieze remain unknown.