Details & Cataloguing

In Context Italian Art


Marino Marini
1901 - 1980
signed with the monogram (lower right); signed Marino, titled and dated 1959-60 on the reverse
oil on canvas
155 by 155cm., 61 by 61in.
Painted in 1958-59.
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Settimio Cinicola, Milan

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


Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Marino Marini als Schilder, 1964, no. 59

Antwerp, Koniklinjk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Marino Marini, 1965, no. 48

Rome, Palazzo Venezia, Marino Marini, 1966, pl. XXIII, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Milan, Palazzo Reale, Marino Marini, 1989–90, no. 122, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1958/59)


Franco Russoli, Marino Marini. Dipinti e Disegni, New York, 1965, no. 51 (as dating from 1958/59)

Franco Russoli, Marino Marini Bilder und Zeichnungen, Stuttgart, 1965, no. 85

Franco Russoli, Marino Marini. Pitture e Disegni, Milan, 1966, no. 85

Herbet Read, Patrick Waldberg & Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, Marino Marini. Complete Works, New York, 1970, pp. 436 & 438, no. 278, illustrated (as dating from 1958/59)

Lorenzo Papi & Erich Steingräber, Marino Marini Pittore, Ivrea, 1987, no. 387, illustrated p.204

Catalogue Note

Vibrantly coloured and exuding an extraordinary sense of dynamism through its monumental scale, L’Orchestra is a highly significant example of Marino Marini’s painterly corpus. Depicting a rendering of an orchestra which is almost entirely abstract in its deconstruction of familiar instrumental shapes, the present work reveals Marini’s extraordinary facility as a manipulator of colour and painterly form. The vibrant green and gold orchestral elements hover within the rich deep red of the background, against which the central figures assert their compositional primacy. A rhythm of colour and shapes is arranged through the composition almost as musical notes on a score or the movement of a jazz orchestra in full swing. The primary elements of colour and composition drive L’Orchestra beyond the static painterly image. Fascinated by the richness of oil painting and the freedom it gave him, the artist himself commented: ‘Painting is a vision of colour. Painting means entertaining the poetry of fact; and in the process of its making the fact becomes true. In colour, I looked for the beginning of each new idea. Whether one should call it painting or drawing, I do not know’ (quoted in Sam Hunter, Marino Marini, The Sculpture, New York, 1993, p. 37). The satisfaction the artist found in painting is evident in the present work in the overlapping layers of pigment, resulting in the rich surface texture and joyful atmosphere.

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.

In Context Italian Art