Marino Marini (1901-1980)
Marino Marini (1901-1980)


Marino Marini (1901-1980)
stamped with the initials 'M.M.' (on the base)
hand chiseled bronze with brown green patina
Height: 21 7/8in. (55.6cm)
Width: 11 5/8in. (29.5cm.)
Length: 17 1/8in. (43.4cm.)
Conceived in 1951 and cast in an edition of 6
Studio Copernico, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2009.
U. Apollonio, Marino Marini scultore, Milan, 1953, no. 98 (another cast illustrated).
Exh. cat., Mostra di Marino Marini, Rome, 1966, no. 52, p. 39 (another cast illustrated fig. 30).
A. M. Hammacher, Marino Marini: Sculpture, Painting, Drawing, London, 1970, no. 168, p. 321 (another cast illustrated p. 175).
H. Read, P. Waldberg & G. di San Lazzaro, Marino Marini, Complete Works, New York, 1970, no. 281, p. 365 (another cast illustrated).
C. Pirovano, Marino Marini scultore, Milan, 1972, no. 287, p. 162 (another cast illustrated p. 163).
'Hommage à Marino Marini', in XXe Siècle, Paris, 1974 (another cast illustrated, p. 35).
M. Meneguzzo, Cavalli e cavalieri, Milan, 1997, no. 62, p. 221.
Fondazione Marino Marini (ed.), Marino Marini, Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculptures, Milan, 1998, no. 354b, p. 251 (another cast illustrated p. 250).

Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Alessandro Diotallevi
Alessandro Diotallevi

Lot Essay

This work is sold with a photo-certificate from the Fondazione Marino Marini.

Executed in 1951, Cavaliere is among the works which inaugurate the dramatic and apocalyptic direction which Marini Marini’s work would take during the Post-War years. Portraying a horse and its rider, the work addresses one of the most significant themes of Marini’s entire oeuvre. In Cavaliere, both the animal and the man stretch out into a strenuous pose: as the horse solidly spreads out its legs and extends its neck to the sky, the rider opens up his limbs into the air. The taut poses of the horse and the rider introduce a sense of emergency and drama to the work, which is emphasised by its expressive, rough surface on which the artist has left the visible traces of his tools.

By the mid Twentieth Century, at the time when Marini executed Cavaliere, horses and riders had become anachronistic subjects. In an age dominated by the machine, the epic tradition of equestrian statuary - which in Roman and Renaissance times had honoured emperors and remarkable individuals - had lost its relevance. The very relationship between man and horse had irreversibly changed, as Marini himself explained: ‘In the past fifty years, this ancient relationship between man and beast has been entirely transformed. The horse has been replaced, in its economic and its military functions, by the machine, by the tractor, the automobile or the tank. It has already become a symbol of sport or of luxury and, in the minds of most of our contemporaries, is rapidly becoming a kind of myth’ (Marino Marini, interview with Edouard Roditi, 1958, pp. 85-90, in E. Roditi, Dialogues: Conversations with European Artists at Mid-Century, San Francisco, 1990, p. 86).

It was this very transition towards the symbolic and the mythic in the depiction of riders that interested Marini. Previous generations of painters, such as Degas, Dufy, Redon, Picasso and de Chirico, had contributed with their work to the subject’s semantic transformation. ‘My own work’, conceded Marini, ‘has followed a general trend in its evolution, from representing a horse as part of the fauna of the objective world to suggesting it as a visionary monster arisen from a subjective bestiary’ (Marino Marini, interview with Edouard Roditi, 1958, pp. 85-90, in op. cit., p. 86). With works such as Cavaliere, Marini added another, poignant layer of meaning to the equestrian theme, by then displaced and transformed by its contemporary context. In particular, horse and rider became the vehicles through which Marini could express the angst of the Post-war period in Europe.

In its composition, Cavaliere strongly resonates with Marini’s L’angelo della città, a cast of which now famously stands at the entrance of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. In a similar pose to Cavaliere, L’angelo della città portrays a rider, his arms outstretched as he stares up at the sky in a gesture of ecstasy. Marini had executed that earlier work in the moment of euphoria which first followed the end of the Second World War. Discussing a cast of the sculpture now lost (previously in the collection of Edgar Kaufmann), Marini explained: ‘it is a symbol of the hope and the gratitude that I felt shortly after the end of the war’ (Marino Marini, interview with Edouard Roditi, 1958, pp. 85-90, in op. cit., p. 88). L’angelo della città conveys in fact a sense of joy: the rider seems to be wishing to embrace the vault of the sky, as the horse supports him with strength and poise. Although exploring a similar pose, Cavaliere resorts to a more dramatic effect. While in L’angelo della città the rider’s legs fell trustfully along the body of the horse, in Cavaliere the figure tenses his limbs outwards. The rider is thus precariously balanced on the horse’s back, contrasting sharply with the sense of stability and grace of L’angelo della città. The limbs of the rider in Cavaliere, moreover, appear mutilated, unable to grasp the space around them; the face is deformed into a crying mouth. While the horse in L’angelo della città had a noble, obeying stance, in Cavaliere the animal’s pose reflects the rider’s sense of distress: the legs are asymmetrical, the tail is raised in fear and the neck jots to the sky in anxiety. The almost cubist depiction of the neck and muzzle of the horse enhances the expressionist effect of the work, echoing one of the most dramatic, modern depictions of the horse as a symbol of tragedy and war, Picasso’s Guernica, which would be exhibited in Milan two years later, in 1953. While L’angelo della città is a work still rooted into a sense of classical tradition and optimism, Cavaliere appears as a work more lucidly aware of the difficult challenges and questions of the contemporary world.

With its nervous and scarred forms, Cavaliere marks a change in meaning in Marini’s horses and riders, which would subsequently become more and more pronounced in his Post-War work. The artist explained: ‘developments in the post-war world soon began to disappointment me, and I no longer felt any such faith in the future. On the contrary, I then tried to express, in each one of my subsequent equestrian figures, a greater anxiety, and a more devastating despair’ (Marino Marini, interview with Edouard Roditi, 1958, pp. 85-90, in op. cit., p. 88). Through his artistic vision, Marini succeeded in turning a seemingly obsolete image into a compelling, powerful symbol of the bewildering disquiet of the Post-War period.

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