Marino Marini



Not on display

Marino Marini 1901–1980
Original title
Il cavaliere
Object: 1638 × 1549 × 673 mm
Purchased 1951

Display caption

Marini produced his first equestrian works in the mid 1930s. He was inspired to do so by seeing sculptures of medieval knights on horseback in Germany. The subject symbolised for him a primeval or mythical harmony between man and nature. After the Second World War, however, his figures on horses often expressed anguish. This related to Marini's experience of seeing Italian peasants on frightened horses fleeing bombardment during the War. The artist wrote that this sculpture was 'the result of a sad period which Italy passed through during the War', and described it as 'enclosed in geometrical lines', and 'very precise in its tragic and human significance'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Marino Marini 1901-1980

N06009 Horseman 1947

Inscribed 'MARINO' and raised stamp 'MM' on upper surface of base; founder's stamp 'FONDERIA D'ARTE | M.A.F. | MILANO' on side of base
Bronze, 64 ½ x 61 x 26 ½ (164 x 155 x 67.5)
Purchased from the artist through the Galleria del Milione, Milan (Grant-in-Aid) 1951
Lit: James Thrall Soby, 'Marino Marini' in exh. catalogue Marino Marini, Buchholz Gallery, New York, February-March 1950, repr. on cover; Umbro Apollonio, Marino Marini Sculptor (Milan 1953), p.34, repr. pls.84-5; Patrick Waldberg, G. di San Lazzaro and Herbert Read, Marino Marini (Paris 1970), sculpture No.229b, p.365 repr.; Carlo Pirovano, Marino Marini (Milan c.1972), No.236b, pp.95, 158, repr. p.158
Repr: John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1958), pl.21

Marino Marini's sculptures start from an impression, often instantaneous, whose impact he tries to preserve. His first horseman, which was made in 1936-7, is in polychromed wood and quite different in treatment from the later series. 'His full realisation of the theme', says J.T. Soby, 'began after he had seen the Lombard peasants fleeing the bombings on their frightened horses'. When asked to confirm this, the artist replied (letter of 18 October 1953): 'The sculpture ... is the result of a sad period which Italy passed through during the war. The work is enclosed in geometrical lines and is very precise in its tragic and human significance.' In this case the figure and the horse form an equilibrium of the horizontal and the vertical, whereas the later versions of this theme have tended to become more and more contorted and dynamic, as the rider progressively loses all control of his mount.

There are four bronze casts of this work (an edition of three, plus one artist's proof):

1. Coll. Mrs John D. Rockefeller III, New York
2. Coll. Henry R. Hope, Bloomington, Indiana
3. Tate Gallery
4. Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam

As the artist worked on the surface of each of these with a chisel, each one has a different finish. There is also a version in wood the same size which is in the Gianni Agnelli collection in Turin. The artist stated (letter of 19 January 1974) that the sculpture was originally modelled in plaster and that the wood carving was executed after the bronzes.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.487-8, reproduced p.487

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