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
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. 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
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.
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