This bronze is recorded in the Manzù archives under no. 85-2004.
In 1934, Manzù was struck by the powerful sight of the Pope standing between two cardinals. Within a short time, the cardinal motif began to feature in his drawings, but it was only after the Second World War that he began to create his now iconic sculptures on the theme. Cardinale shows the pared down manner in which Manzù usually treated the theme. The slender sculpture is almost knife-like, cutting into the air. This is wholly appropriate for the subject matter, as Manzù was impressed by the combination of earthly power and a strong religious detachment, as though they were already linked to the heaven of which they preached. This confidence and the sheer physicality of the cardinal's cape mixes with the otherworldly gaze to create a potent image of power. Manzù, who had lost his faith in Christianity by the time he created his Cardinali, openly admitted that they had little to do with religion. Discussing this, Manzù explained: "I should say that when they are the model, rather than any other works of a religious nature, I am not specifically thinking of religion; what I have made has no link with the Church. It may perhaps be nonsensical that it is I of all people who carried out this work--as someone has upheld--but it may also be the case that the laymen are the ones who understand better than others what is expressed in the religious world" (quoted in M. Pisani, "Intervista a Giacomo Manzù," Manzù, exh. cat., Milan, 1988, p. 48).
Manzù looked at the churchmen with a mixture of admiration and detached interest. Their sheer power, the bearing that their knowledge and certainty in matters beyond the veil lent them, were of natural interest to the sculptor. Manzù has not created a religious work of art, but instead has used the cardinals as objective subject matter. The simplified features of the man inside the outfit seem to imply a certain feebleness. Likewise, the puny hand snaking out from the robes and the small, almost insignificant face contrast with the mass of the body, and yet it is here that the paradox that so appealed to Manzù lies: the cardinal does not rely on his physical body. He stares into space, thinking of higher matters, and yet despite the almost wasted appearance of his body within its clerical shell, he remains impressive and imposing.
"In Manzù's hands the Cardinals were transformed into compact forceful volumes, enlivened by extremely tender modelling and generously draped folds. The massiveness of the volumes is stressed by the economy of lines and the simplicity of plastic means... A simplification of this kind naturally makes the highest demands on technical skill... the planes are never lifeless, the folds are never rigid; by means of extremely sensitive modelling the surface is made to vibrate" (J. Rewald, Giacomo Manzù, London, 1967, p. 60).