Half-length, leaning forward on a desk. Oil on canvas, 30” x 25” (76.2 x 63.5 cms), signed and dated upper right ‘A. Muller Ury 1939’. The stretcher bears the words ‘President Giuseppe Motta, Switzerland 1938’ in the artist’s hand, so presumably finished in New York in 1939.
Stiftung Adolfo Muller-Ury, Hospental, Switzerland.
FRENCH & CO. INC., 210, East 57th Street, New York, April 21 – May 3, 1947, No. 10.
Motta was born on December 29, 1871 in Airolo and was nine years junior to the artist. He was educated at the Universities of Freiburg, Munich and Heidelberg. In 1893 he qualified as a lawyer, working in the Ticino until 1911 when he became a Bundesrat. He was president of Switzerland in 1915, 1920, 1927, 1932 and 1937. He lived in Bern at Bernastrasse 16 in the 1930s. He died on January 23, 1940.
Muller-Ury certainly painted Motta in Switzerland in 1938, but possibly he sketched a portrait in 1937. There are a number of letters from Motta – all in Italian (artist’s papers) – the first of which is dated by Motta ‘Bern, January 7, 1937’ and is written in his own handwriting on deckle-edged paper and marked ‘Der Bundesprasident: Der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft:
‘Dear Mr. Adolfo Muller-Ury,
I am thanking you for your greetings and wishes sent to me and the kindnesses of your letter of 17 December last. I reciprocate your wishes to you with much sincerity and also in the name of my family.
In a little while I send you two photographs, and if you wish for some others I am pleased to make more for you very willingly. I hope that the two will be enough.
It would cheer me up to see you this year when you come again to Switzerland and in the meanwhile I send you my best wishes
Yours affectionately, Giuseppe Motta.’