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marino marini was the kind of artist who was fundamentally intrigued by recurrent phases, or cycles of history. he didn’t limit himself to the present, but he relied upon his intuition, that is, to the realm of feelings and imagination that from the unconscious bleeds into consciousness. his creative spirit needed a wide horizon and this didn’t confuse him or make him uncertain. modernity and tradition were fused within him. the convergence of his bonds with human nature, spirituality, the purpose of life – material, concrete, emotional and spiritual – together precipitate a rationale for the content of his works, that was rather limited. tangible figures without context, generally, figures representing solitude without divinity. mostly limited to figures from the art world (with a few exceptions for friends and family), he created his portraits with this same modern and intense sense of the purpose of life. he arrived at a ‘sculpted’ portrait or figure by starting with the colors, not through the first traces of a sketch or painter’s technique: each unique typology of artwork by marino had its own space, but for all of them color was the primary source of inspiration, even before the works were chromatically realized in a determined context. no one will ever know if his latent desire to sculpt didn’t come from his daring adjustments to colors in the aspiration to employ more concrete and tangible methods that would expand into the spatial realm.
the first treatment of this equestrian theme, the most significant in the repertoire of the artist, was in bas relief. the origin of theme was revealed by the artist himself. traveling in 1934, in germany, he was taken by the medieval statue of a horse and rider in the cathedral of bamberg – that lonely crowned knight appeared far away in what seemed to the artist as a fairy tale world. the myth of the horseman, the man that takes his strength from the animal that he dominates, who rides the horse but who is also bucked off by the horse, increases year by year giving the sculptor worldwide fame generated by his repeated production of masterpieces. in some examples, the link between the horse and rider becomes almost symbiotic, like the artist wanted to fuse the two bodies into one in a representation of the mythical centaur. marini’s horsemen, at least up until the dramatic years of the war, were calm and calibrated figures, steadfast in their equilibrium, harmonious in their alternating soft and curved shapes. “my equestrian statues,” said the sculptor in 1972,”express the torment caused by the events of this century. the restlessness of my horse increases with each new work, the rider is always more exhausted, he has lost his domination of the beast and the catastrophes to which he succumbs resemble those that destroyed sodom and pompeii. i aspire to make visible the last stage of destruction of a myth, of the myth of heroic and victorious individualism, the humanists’ man of virtue. my work in the last years doesn’t want to be heroic, but tragic.”
“my pomone live in a bright world, with their sunny disposition, full of humanity, of abundance, and of great sensuality. they represent a happy season that breaks the tragic time of war. in all these images, femininity is enriched with all its past meanings, those most inherent, most mysterious: a sort of unavoidable necessity, of unmovable stillness, of primitive and unconscious fertility. the figure, the statue, instead demands a wider research of shapes, of lines, of bodies. my women, that some find awkward, respond to this preoccupation. in the figure, i propose to myself to deepen the way i play with volume in a togetherness that is always more united, more steady, yet also free and nimble. but this research on volume is not the only premise of the sculptor, who need not ever forget what moves most in a sculpture is always its inspiration.
in the right hand corner of the mezzanine, a type of ‘island’ towards the rucellai chapel, a theatre made from some of marini’s portraits has been reconstructed. these portraits – by which the artist has been able to recreate the personalities of illustrious men of our time, most of them artists, but also protagonists of finance, industry and culture – made marino known throughout the world. they are a sliver of truth and of life hardly achievable by other expressive means. if, in the twentieth century, from the social point of view portraiture was in decline, and from the aesthetic point of view it wasn’t considered futurism, nor cubism or surrealism, it wasn’t needed and it was almost extinguished, marino instead proposed some psychological portraits without social purpose or aesthetic aim. from the expression and the face of his models he read the fundamental traits intuitively and without circumspection. marino marini was the only one to obtain a significant sculptural depth in some portraits of his illustrious contemporaries.
circus characters and other subjects
in the fifties a rather large number of small sculptures appeared, that, in the twentieth century, assumed the meaning of what in the nineteenth century would have been considered commedia dell’arte and the small world of the circus. the small figures were in part the somewhat autobiographical aspect of marino. somewhat, because, also in this reduced dimension and in the figuration, the auto-indentification remained discreet. his sense of late-prehistoric figuration on a reduced scale and his attention to fossils, preserved his style from preziosismi in the way of the “salon style” of the 18th and 19th century. his great love was turned toward the archaic, to unadorned authenticity, what’s crude or rugged, that which is alien from the baroque deviations and aimed at the direct line to expressivity. in this way, his version of the acrobats, the characters of fairs and traveling shows, and above all, of the people of the small and poor traveling circus became subjects of interpretation. he was intimately fascinated and deeply struck by the nature of the craft of entertaining people who, in addition to having fun, had created eternal types like the tightrope walker, the acrobat, the juggler, and especially the clown.