The Statue by Luigi Marchesi representing the Allegory of Hospitality

Statue portraying the Allegory of Hospitality (ISAL Photo Archive)
Statue portraying the Allegory of Hospitality (ISAL Photo Archive)

Pelagio Palagi placed the sculptural depiction of Hospitality in front of the sculpture by Antonio Galli depicting the Allegory of Friendship when the ownership of the villa was transferred to the noble Traversi family. This was specially commissioned in the first half of the 19th century to Luigi Marchesi, brother of the famous sculptor, Pompeo Marchesi, active for over 40 years as a sculptor of the “factory” of the Cathedral of Milan.

Both artists who were very young at the time of the commission of the Desio Villa, quickly evolved from the placid neoclassical style to romantic naturalism, up to the realistic outcome of “Love Craze” by Antonio Galli displayed at the Gallery of Modern Art of Milan.
The Allegory of Hospitality, however, is characterized by a posture and a strong classical expression. Monumental in size, as requested by the dramatic role it held as the entrance to the Villa. Hospitality is a common subject in neoclassical decorations for façades of villas and aristocratic buildings, which have as illustrious examples, the reliefs dedicated to the episode of “Philimon and Baucis,” model of charitable hospitality narrated in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and in the “Proci suitors in the house of Ulysses,” an example of hospitality betrayed, sculpted for Villa Belgiojoso Bonaparte in Milan. These were designed with the refined taste of Parini who, in turn, was inspired by the classic concept of Xenia, the unwritten law for the protection of travellers, which accordingly states that the guest is sacred and protected by the gods, whatever their identity. Guests and hosts are in fact connected by a bond of mutual respect and the link is established by the exchange of a gift, as may be remembered by the statue with closed hands in the Allegory of Desio.
The allegorical meaning of Hospitality, therefore, is to be read as part of a single project inextricably linked to the figurative representation of Friendship. Both sculptures, in fact, constituted a clear restoration of the models in Milan and a warning to those who are about to go into noble residences. These, in fact, would be greeted with extreme courtesy, but if they betray the trust that the owners placed in them, they would be hit by the same fate that awaited the Proci and the Phrygians as in the works of Homer and the Ovid.