• The Italian Sale  auction at Christies

    Sale 7757

    The Italian Sale

    16 October 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 56

    Giacomo Manzù (1908-1991)

    Cardinale seduto

    Price Realised  


    Giacomo Manzù (1908-1991)
    Cardinale seduto
    signed 'Manzù' (on the reverse)
    white Carrara marble
    height: 24¾ in. (63 cm.)
    Executed in 1971, this work is unique

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    This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity from Inge Manzù.

    The Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzù was perhaps best known for the sculptures of cardinals which he created, each shown in different positions, with different expressions, evoking different emotions. In this way, he paid tribute to his great artistic hero Aristide Maillol, who through his various stylised depictions of the female figure managed to invoke a range of references and emotions, allowing his work to take on an almost abstract, conceptual character.

    In Cardinale seduto, Manzù has captured the form of the seated churchman in white marble, bringing a sense of pristine, glacial beauty and even purity to the subject. Manzù has explored the subject of the cardinal not as a celebration of religion but instead as an exploration of the human condition, as well as of formal sculptural concerns. He had been struck, in 1934, by the sight of Pope Pius XI seated between two cardinals, by the imposing religious garb that they wore and by their sheer physical presence. It is a distillation of that physical presence that is evident in the mass of Cardinale seduto, yet it is combined, in part through the use of the ethereal white marble and in part through the stylisation of his subject, with a sense of lift: the cardinal exists both as a weighty figure, bound to the ground, and yet in contact with and moving to the heavens. It was this duality that Manzù would explore again and again in his Cardinals, the contrast between corporeal bulk and spiritual weightlessness.

    Manzù created numerous works for the Church during his lifetime, and also became friends with Pope John XXIII; yet it was not belief or faith that lay at the core of his exploration of the Cardinali, as he himself was at pains to point out:

    'As regards the Cardinals, we are dealing with a subject-matter that I determined on my own, without any commission request. And I should say that when they are the model... I am not specifically thinking of religion; what I have made has no link with the Church. It could perhaps be nonsensical that it is I of all people who carried out this work-- as someone has upheld-- but it could also be the case that the laymen are the ones who understand better than others what is expressed in the religious world' (Manzù, quoted in M. Pisani, 'Intervista a Giacomo Manzù, pp. 42-49, Manzù, exh. cat., Milan, 1988, p. 48).

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1971.

    Pre-Lot Text