Ernesto Treccani | The Moon And The Bonfires

In 1962, milanese artist Ernesto Treccani made 5 large size canvas (200×300 cm) inspired by the novel The Moon And The Bonfires. Originally meant for the Casa del Popolo in Canelli, they were then placed at Centro Studi Cesare Pavese in Santo Stefano Belbo until the 1994 flood. Today they are permanently displayed at Fondazione Cesare Pavese, on the former altar of the now deconsecrated church of the Saints James and Christopher.

The paintings are accompanied by a series of 21 preparatory drawings, collected on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Cesare Pavese’s death in the exhibition “Treccani per Pavese”, which was inaugurated in Santo Stefano Belbo on 27 April 1990 in the presence of the artist, who received the honorary citizenship on that very day. The drawings are now displayed in the conference room at the second floor of the foundation: one of them still bears the signs of the flood, as a reminder of the tragic event that afflicted the village. 

The Moon And The Bonfires series

Of the five paintings – “Il Valino” (Valino), “La vendemmia” (The Grape Harvest), “L’estate” (Summer), “Il trenino di Canelli” (Canelli’s train), “La luna e i falò” (The Moon And The Bonfires– the Art historian and critic Floriano De Santi wrote in the exhibition catalogue “…there’s a strange exaltation of life and destruction that results in soft tremors, in the delicacy that is typical of both the writer and the artist, who has now reached his maturity”.  

In The Moon And The Bonfires series some of the book characters are clearly recognizable – Valino, Cinto, Irene, Santa, Nuto – as well as key themes and subjects of the novel: the hills, the vineyard, the railway, … Treccani himself listed them in Arte per Amore (Feltrinelli, 1978): 

Valino climbing uphill: the land has the colour of the autumn, a mulberry on the left, a house behind, the compact wall, with no windows, the sky low on the hill. The second painting is harvest time: a girl crouched in the vineyards, another one standing, slim and pink, and a face appearing in the thick of the leaves. The third painting is summer with the lying nude I mentioned above. The fourth painting is a puffing train, smoke as a character. The fifth painting, the moon and the bonfires. At the bottom of the canvas there’s a bright river flowing, Cinto is on the bank. Behind, the green hill with large shadows; within that green, the accordion, the clarion, a dancing couple. A bonfire in the middle of the hill, the dark sky with the crescent moon. 

The church of the Saints James and Christopher can be visited in our opening hours or during one of our guided tours

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