Picasso fragment on display at Milan’s Brera

Picasso original pulled out of Brera archives.

A Picasso original, part of a theatre backdrop and deposited in a store room at Milan’s Pinacoteca Brera, has been restored and put on display in the gallery for the first time.

Originally part of a backdrop for the ballet Cuadro flamenco, commissioned by impresario Serghei Diaghilev for shows in London and Paris in 1921, the fragment has a fascinating history.

Known as Le Balcon, or in Italian La Loge (the theatre box), it was originally located near the right-hand edge of the backdrop picturing a theatre within the theatre. The fragment can be identified from the preliminary sketch of the entire backdrop held in the Musée Picasso in Paris.

The painting portrays two ladies sitting in the box, wearing deep necklines and black gloves, with their hair coiffed in a style reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec.

Depressed by his lack of success, Diaghilev cut the backdrop into pieces in 1926 and sold them to different buyers, hoping to finance new productions with the proceeds.

Picasso kept one piece of the backdrop until 1973, while other fragments were spread between New York, Cannes, Paris and Milan. The Brera piece was bought by the Italian state in 1976.

Picasso’s signature can again be seen after the recent restoration by Barbara Ferriani, sponsored by radio station RTL 102.5.