Toninelli Arte Moderna, Milan
Galleria dello Scudo, Verona
Galleria d’Arte Marescalchi, Bologna
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in the late 1980s
The work is part of a series painted by Marini from the mid-1950s on the theme of music and theatre. Marini’s figurative works, also depicting dancers and jugglers, were a major outlet for his fascination with theatricality, endlessly seeking to represent the ideal out of the familiar and ordinary, whereby masked gestural figures are also employed as motifs during his exploration. This is brilliantly exemplified by Il Teatro delle Maschere in the collection of Marino Marini Museum in Florence (fig. 1) and Grande Teatro (fig. 2). The proud and upright figures emanate a sense of grandeur, the solemnity of history as well as a nostalgia for the ideal classical world.
Through its composition L’Orchestra evokes in an abstract manner a motif of paramount importance for Marini: that of the horse and rider. Within Marini’s œuvre the horse is imbued with an undeniable grandeur, serving as a universal signifier of power and strength, but also vulnerability. Marini’s interest in the horse and rider theme initially derived from the Etruscan and classical Roman sculptures that he had seen as a young art student in Italy. His first serious artistic consideration of the theme occurred during the early 1930s, after travelling to Northern Europe where he saw the 11th century equestrian statue of Emperor Henry II in Bamberg cathedral. Marini's admiration for these classical examples, as well as for Degas’s sculptures of racehorses, the Italian Futurists’ mechanised horses, and Picasso’s terrified horse in Guernica, inspired him to explore equestrian themes in his art. Over the next several decades, Marini's horsemen became increasingly abstract, and the bodies of the horse and rider were simplified to their most elemental components. By the 1950s Marini developed what is largely considered his most powerful representations of this figure. Patrick Waldberg notes that: ‘With Marino the horse recovers its mythic sense’ (Herbert Read, Patrick Waldberg & Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, op. cit., p. 182). Although Marini frequently depicted theatre and circus performers within his paintings, musicians and the subject of the orchestra appear much more rarely. Within Marini’s interpretation the orchestra becomes imbued with all the joie-de-vivre, excitement and colour of exuberance and play.
The importance of L’Orchestra is attested to by its distinguished exhibition history. The gallery Toninelli Arte Moderna in Milan was pivotal in presenting and revealing Marini to the international public as a highly gifted and skilled painter as well as an accomplished sculptor. The present work was later exhibited at the Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (1964) and the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp (1965) amongst other prestigious European venues.
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