Details & Cataloguing

The Italian Sale


Marino Marini
1901 - 1980
signed Marino and dated 1958-60 (upper left)
oil on canvas
170.5 by 170.5cm., 67 1/4 by 67 1/4 in.
Painted in 1958-60.
Leggi la scheda di conservazione Leggi la scheda di conservazione


Toninelli Arte Moderna, Milan

Armando Scamperle, Rome (acquired by 1970)

Sale: Christie's, London, 29th June 1992, lot 60

Galleria l'Affresco, Montecatini Terme

Landau Fine Arts, Montreal

Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 4th November 2009, lot 46)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Milan, Toninelli Arte Moderna, Marino Marini, mostra personale di pittura, 1963-64

Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen & Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Marino Marini als Schilder, 1964-65, no. 56, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (no. 44 in Antwerp)

Rome, Palazzo Venezia, Mostra di Marino Marini, 1966, no. 123, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Verona, Galleria dello Scudo, Marino Marini. Mitografia, sculture e dipinti 1939-1966, 1994-95, no. 32, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Franco Russoli, Marino Marini. Pitture e disegni, Milan, 1963, illustrated pl. 113

Franco Russoli, Marino Marini. Paintings and Drawings, New York & London, 1964, illustrated pl. 64

Franco Russoli, Marino Marini. Bilder und Zeichnungen, Stuttgart, 1965, illustrated pl. 109, listed p. 168

Alberto Busignani, Marino Marini, Florence, 1968, listed p. 89

Abraham M. Hammacher, Marino Marini. Sculpture, Painting, Drawing, London, 1970, no. 260, illustrated in colour

Patrick Waldberg, Herbert Read & Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, Marino Marini, Complete Works, New York, 1970, no. 279, illustrated p. 438

Lorenzo Papi & Erich Steingräber, Marino Marini pittore, Ivrea, 1987, no. 390, illustrated in colour p. 207

Nota a catalogo

Monumental in scope and scale, Grande Teatro is a magnificent depiction of the themes of paramount importance to Marino Marini’s art: that of the horse and rider and theatricality. Within Marini’s œuvre the horse is imbued with an undeniable grandeur, serving as a universal signifier of power and strength. Patrick Waldberg notes that: ‘With Marino the horse recovers its mythic sense’ (Herbert Read, Patrick Waldberg & Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, Marino Marini Complete Works, New York, 1970, p. 182). Furthermore, the motif of the horse and rider is rich in classical association, referencing the tradition of equestrian statuary in Italian artistic and political culture from the Renaissance which Marini was exposed to in Italy. 

In the present work, a trio of figures are depicted, one figure standing tall alongside the prominent horse and rider, whilst the horse turns its head towards the direction of the viewer. In such compositional arrangement Marini evokes the theme of theatre. Marini’s figurative works, also depicting dancers and jugglers, were his 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 wonderfully exemplified by Il Teatro delle Maschere in the collection of Marino Marini Museum in Florence (fig.1). As for Grande Teatro, the proud and upright figures emanate a sense of grandeur, the solemnity of history as well as the nostalgia for the ideal classical world.

Grande Teatro displays a symphony of colours and abstract forms which swirl around the central figures, contrasting to superb effect the cool greys which dominate the rest of the composition. Fascinated by the richness of oil painting and the freedom it gave him, the artist 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). There is also a sense of sculptural solidity in Grande Teatro inherent within the powerful forms of the horse’s neck and face, which references Marini’s celebrated equestrian bronzes. Commenting on the present lot and musing on the complexity of the composition Carlo Pirovano wrote: ‘Here the coherently pictorial syntax leads to the representation on a flat surface of complex perspective and spatial forms, with a dynamic reference to the shortened profiles. This is not the result of a hedonistic taste for the arabesque, but reflects the way time is divided on the stage. In works like this one, the echo of Cubist and Futurist simplifications in the manner of Gino Severini and Alberto Magnelli are more evident’ (Carlo Pirovano in Marino Marini, Mitografia (exhibition catalogue), Galleria dello Scudo, Verona, 1994-95, p. 110). 

The importance of Grande Teatro is further attested to by its extensive and distinguished exhibition history. It was exhibited at the first major show of Marini’s paintings in at the Toninelli Arte Moderna Gallery in Milan between 1963 and 1964; it was this show which revealed Marini to the international public as a highly gifted and skilled painter in addition to his already well-known work as a sculptor. Grande Teatro 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.

The Italian Sale