Particolare dello decorazione pittorica dell’Aula magna (Fototeca ISAL-BAMS Photo Rodella)
Detail of the decorative paintings of the great hall (ISAL-BAMS Photo Archives, photograph by Rodella)

On the ceiling of the Great Hall located on the ground floor of the villa, there is a fresco of considerable size painted in the 1920s by a former patient of the psychiatric hospital in Mombello. In the centre of the ceiling, of the room now used as a library by the Luigi Castiglioni State High School, there was, in fact, a fresco achieved during art therapy sessions. It had a mythological flavour, with three cherub musicians in the centre of the composition, playing the lyre, triangle and flute. Perhaps the patient-artist had observed the Cremonese painter, Giovanni Angelo Borroni in his execution of 18th-century frescoes in the adjacent rooms of the same country residence of Limbiate.

For many years this had been attributed to Gino Grimaldi, the artist of Venetian origin, who asked to be voluntarily admitted to the psychiatric hospital in Mombello on two different occasions between 1916 and 1933. According to tradition, the director of the hospital, Professor Antonini, offered him the chance to decorate some of the interiors of the buildings; here Gino Grimaldi began his career as a patient-artist that made him famous as the “painter of the madhouse of Cogolego.” In fact, he is considered the main case study for the application of art therapy, which began in Limbiate. The director, in fact, had discovered that Gino Grimaldi had attended a few years at the Academy of Brera in Milan without being able to complete his studies for financial reasons and who later decorated chapels and villas in Como. For this reason Antonini proposed to show his artistic inclinations by letting him paint some rooms. His stay in the provincial hospital of Mombello ended so he ran away to Liguria, convinced that the police were looking for him for the crime of homosexuality in 1933 and asked to be voluntarily admitted to Cogolego, a psychiatric hospital, where he was admitted with the diagnosis of neurotic psychosis. Here he dedicated four years of his life on the decoration of the church of Santa Maria Addolorata asylum; he refused to leave the hospital in 1935, and in 1937 signed the decorative cycle that read “Last Work. Farewell to My Art”.
Other sources, however, claim that the frescoes in the Great Hall were painted by Gino Sandri, another patient-painter of Limbiate judged at an early age as an exceptional artistic talent who graduated from the Brera Academy, and frequented the art studios of Carlo Carra, Aldo Carpi, Longoni, Adolfo Wildt and Belloni. He was an affirmed illustrator, published many books, and participated in many exhibitions, before the start of his troubled path of internments in psychiatric hospitals in Rome and Limbiate, where he continued to express himself by painting and where he died in 1959 forgotten by friends and critics.
To disorive either attribution, the hypothesis is that the signature present on the right of the fresco would attribute the work to A. Andreoli.
Under the painted ceiling along the walls are shelves of the library, which preserve some precious volumes including an 1845 illustrated edition of the novel by Cesare Cantu Margherita Pusterla and the 1790 edition of “Travel in the United States of North America” by Luigi Castiglioni, botanist and grandson of Pietro Verri, after whom the school is named.
In the Great Hall today, is a small historical mystery revolving around uncertainties related to the decorative cycles of Villa Crivelli Pusterla, between the 18th and 20th centuries. Hopefully it will be clarified by archival research so that a widespread study and restoration campaign could soon begin, to check the existence of any other frescos and paintings under the plaster of the vaulted rooms.