Piccolo Cavallo (Small Horse)
Stamped with the monogram M.M
Stamped Fonderia MAF
Hand-finished bronze with dark brown, light golden brown, green and red patina
Height: 21" (52.5 cm)
Conceived and cast circa 1950.
Edition of 6.
Pierre Matisse Gallery
Frank Stanton (1908-2006) Collection
Private collection, US
Marino Marini was one of the leading sculptors of the 20th century. In 1917 he began studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence and under the guidance of Arturo Martini, he devoted himself primarily to sculpture. In 1929, he succeeded Martini as professor at the Scuola d’Arte di Villa Reale, a position he retained until 1940.
During the 1940s Marini gained increased international notoriety and in 1944 he was included in the seminal exhibition Twentieth-Century Italian Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1951 his exhibition travelled from the Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover to the Kunstverein in Hamburg and the Haus der Kunst of Munich. He was awarded the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1952 and the Feltrinelli Prize at the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome in 1954.
Marini’s works can be found in a number of the world’s leading museums, including the Tate Gallery, London, the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Venice, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. There is also a museum dedicated to his work in Florence.
Marini is most celebrated for his series of Cavalli (horses) and was originally inspired to adopt the equestrian theme after seeing models of medieval knights on horseback in Germany. The sculptor argued that ‘the entire history of humanity and nature can be found in the figure of the horse and rider’ and that he used the subject as his ‘own way of narrating history.’
These Cavalli, which obsessed the artist throughout his career, developed significantly after World War II. The conflict had a profound effect on Marini and the smooth fleshy surfaces, which typified his work of the 1930s and early 1940s, gave way to sharper, angled and scarred forms.
Marini believed that all serenity and beauty had been lost during the war years, where he had witnessed terrified Italian peasants on rearing horses as they tried to escape periods of enemy bombardment. Many years later, in 1972, he argued that ‘the world itself is all expressionist: a restless world, open to anxiety…. A Beautiful thing, such as a sculpture by Canova, has been transformed into a terrifying and dramatic form’.
The present model, entitled Piccolo Cavallo, was conceived in 1950 and is a quintessential example of Marini’s post-war sculpture. The horse’s head reaches upward in a terrifying grimace and its tense body appears to be straining against some unseen anguish. The bronze itself has also been heavily worked by the artist, resulting in a nervous, hatched surface that accentuates the drama of the work.
Piccolo Cavallo in-situ at Stanton’s office during the late 1950s
Marino Marini, The Pilgrim (1939), Bronze, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston