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The terracotta torso is by one of the most important artists of the Italian 'return to order' movement. This followed the First World War and was a reaction to the avant-gardism of the pre-war period. In some respects it appears quite classical: its emphasis on the young man's spine and rib cage, together with the hollowness of the cast, recalls Roman body armour; in addition, the fact that it is an incomplete figure suggests allusion to damaged ancient sculptures. The sculpture's classical references, however, are subtly countered by the figure's elongated form which suggests medieval, rather than ancient, art. Furthermore, it does not glorify male form: it has a sensuous, almost feminine appearance.

August 2004