Two other versions, with slight variations exist of this sculpture.
The present work is sold with a certificate by Inge Manzù.
The sight of Pope Pius XI seated between two cardinals in St. Peter's in 1934 made a great impression on Giacomo Manzù. Four years later he completed his first sculpture of a Cardinale, a subject that was to become one of his major themes, recurring in different forms in his work over five decades. The earlier Cardinals were often based on real churchmen but were not portraits as there had been no sittings; the cardinals provided meanings rather than models.
Manzù's obsession with Cardinals as a source of inspiration was fuelled by more than their imposing robes. To him, there was something abstract about the men themselves. Their heavenly serenity was mingled with an earthbound authority. The shapes of the Cardinal sculptures vary: some seem rocket-like, others take the form of a pyramid. The present work seems more like an artillery shell or a bullet. In it, a statuesque monumentality and upward movement combine to create an iconic image that seems to point to the heavens.
The monumentality of this work creates a feeling of solidity and solemnity within the sculpture. Manzù offset this to varying degrees by showing the small human face isolated and trapped in the world of the robe. In some similar works, a puny hand is visible snaking out of the cardinal's vestment. In the present work, there is no hand - the human element has been limited to a blank, determined face staring into infinity. The sculpture conveys a striking combination between the solitude of the cardinal in the robe, and his self-sufficiency within it. The robe, the Church, and the holy man's internal knowledge trap yet sustain him.
Manzù's aesthetic was shaped to a large degree by his reaction to the growing influence of the Fascist neo-Classical style of pre-1939 Italy. During this period Manzù became a protector and creator of religious art. Many of his early commissions were religious art for religious institutions, culminating in his famous Door of Death at St. Peter's in Rome. Ironically, however, the artist slowly lost his faith in the very institution he was protecting. Nonetheless, Christianity had been too much a part of his life for him to be able to discard it with any ease and throughout his life he retained an interest in the Church and a respect for its heroes, especially his friend Pope John XXIII.