Lot 47
  • 47

Marino Marini

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 USD
7,040,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Marino Marini
  • L'Idea del Cavaliere

  • Polychrome wood


Jacob Weintraub (Gallery Masters, Ltd), New York (acquired on June 6, 1970)

Alexander Kasser,  New Jersey (acquired from the above)

Mrs. Mary Mochary c/o Kasser Art Foundation

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Rome, Palazzo Venezia, Mostra di Marino Marini, 1966

Arles, Musée Réattu et Espace Van Gogh, Marino Marini – Sculptures et dessins, 1995, no. 45

Mannheim, Städlische Kunsthalle (on extended loan)


Giovanni Carandente, Marino Marini, Milan, 1966, illustrated pls. XIV-XV

Patrick Waldberg, Herbert Read, Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, L’Oeuvre complète de Marino Marini, XXe Siècle, Paris, Milan, Berlin and New York, 1970, no. 332, illustrated p. 185 (dimensions listed as 77 in.)

Abram M. Hammacher, Marino Marini Sculpture, painting, drawing, New York, 1971, illustrated on the cover and pls. 187 and 228

Kenjiro Azuma, Marino Marini, Tokyo, 1972, illustrated pl. XIV

Carlo Pirovano, Marino Marini – Scultore, Milan, 1972, no. 228

Hommage à Marino Marini, Paris, 1974, p. 31

Anna Nerse Szinyei, Marini, Budapest, 1977, illustrated p. 36

Lorenzo Papi, Marino Marini – Impressioni di Lorenzo Papi, Ivrea, 1987, n.n.

Giovanni Iovane, Marino Marini, Milan, 1990, p. 97

Jacob D. Weintraub, Jacob's Ladder, From the Bottom of the Warsaw Ghetto to the Top of New York's Art World, Lanham, London and New York, 1994, discussed p. 232

Marco Meneguzzo, Marino Marini – Il Museo alla Villa Reale di Milano, Milan, 1997, illustrated p. 31

Marco Meneguzzo, Marino Marini, Cavalli e cavalieri, Milan, 1997, illustrated pl. 84 (as dating from 1955 and measuring 200 cm)

Giovanni Carandente, Marino Marini, Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculptures, Milan, 1998, no. 413, illustrated p. 287

Catalogue Note

Equestrian images have a long and esteemed tradition in Western art.   Throughout the centuries, paintings and sculptures of men on horseback, often depicting noble cavalrymen or generals mounted on their steed, celebrated the glories and victories of an era or an empire.  But the sculptures of riders and horses that Marino Marini created after the Second World War are a radical departure from this tradition.  Conceived in the midst of profound political transformation, Marini’s cavalieri are a response to the wave of uncertainty that engulfed civilization during the Cold War.  Marini was obsessed with making the horse and rider theme applicable to the contemporary age, and no other artist in the history of 20th century art came close to revitalizing this age-old subject with such creativity and expressive force (see fig. 1).   His anonymous, highly abstracted horsemen eschew any pomp or pretense and are rich with psychological complexity and formal beauty.   This monumental sculpture from 1956 of a rider and his horse, rigid with explosive tension, is a wonderful example of the artist's achievements in this area.


Marini’s interest in cavalieri initially derived from the Etruscan and classical Roman sculptures, such as the iconic equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (see fig. 4), 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 traveling to Northern Europe where he saw the 11th century equestrian statue of Emperor Henry II in Bamberg cathedral (see fig. 3).   Marini's admiration for these classical examples, as well as for Degas’s sculptures of racehorses, the Italian Futurist’s mechanized 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, when the present work was created, Marini developed what is largely considered his most powerful representations of this figure.  Reflecting on the development of these sculptures, he wrote:   “In the end, my passion for the horse represented a personal research into a kind of visual architecture.  The horse’s form is the opposite of man’s; the horse is horizontal, man is vertical….However, the concept changed over the years, and at a certain point what had been serene and tranquil became agitated and expressionistic” (quoted in Sam Hunter, Marino Marini, The Sculpture, New York, 1993, pp. 78).


The present sculpture is the painted wood version of a work that was originally conceived in 1955 in plaster (see fig. 5) and cast in bronze in an edition of four.  This sculpture is rare by virtue of its size and medium, and Marini has enhanced its individuality by painting it with stripes of red, orange, and black.  The choice of colors and the abrupt strokes with which they are applied recall the aesthetic of the German Expressionist painters and even the polychrome totems of Native American tribal art.    In contrast to an earlier wood sculpture from the 1935-37, Cavaliere (see fig. 2), which is much more realistic in figuration and subdued in color, L'Idea del cavaliere demonstrates the expressive shift of Marini’s art after the war.   No longer satisfied with renditions of stoic figures on horseback, Marini, like many post-war Italian artists, and Giacometti, invested his work with an intensity and emotionalism that had not been present in his earlier sculpture.  The shift was most pronounced in the Cavalieri series, in which the riders now seemed to freeze with terror or brace themselves for the imminent bucking of their horse.  “My equestrian figures are symbols of the anguish that I feel when I survey contemporary events,” Marini wrote about the development of these sculptures.  “Little by little, my horses become more restless, their riders less and less able to control them.  Man and beast are both overcome by a catastrophe much like those that struck Sodom and Pompeii” (ibid., p. 60).



In his later years, Marini explained the evolution of the cavaliere in his art, noting how the horse and rider responded to the ever-changing tenor of world events.  “Equestrian statues have always served, through the centuries, a kind of epic purpose.  They set out to exalt a triumphant hero….But the nature of the relationship which existed for centuries between man and the horse has changed, whether we think of the beast of burden that the ploughman leads to the drinking trough in a painting by the brothers Le Nain, or of the Percherons ridden by the horse-traders in Rosa Bonheur’s famous picture, or again of the stallion that rears as it is spurred by one of the cavalry men paintings by Géricault [see fig. 6] or Delacroix.  In the past fifty years, this ancient relationship between man and beast has been entirely transformed.  The horse has been replaced, in its economic and military functions, by the machine, the tractor, the automobile or the tank.  It has become a prime symbol of sport or of decadent luxury, and, in the minds of most of our contemporaries, it is rapidly becoming a kind of lost myth” (quoted ibid. p. 24).

Over the course of his career, Marini only produced seven polychrome wood sculptures, six of which are in major museums:

Cavaliere, 1936-37 (Carandente no. 127), Collezione d’Arte Religiosa Moderna, Musei Vaticani, Rome

Cavaliere, 1949-50 (Carandente no. 331), Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf

The Town’s Guardian Angel, 1949-50 (Carandente no. 333), Menard Art Museum, Komaki-City

Cavaliere, 1952-53 (Carandente no.  376), Kroller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Miracolo, 1954 (Carandente no.  394), Kunstmuseum, Basel

L'Idea del Cavaliere, 1956 (Carandente no.  413), the present work

Miracolo, 1959-60 (Carandente no. 431), Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin




Fig. 1, The artist, seated on one of his monumental cavalli, circa 1953

Fig. 2, Marino Marini, Cavaliere, 1935-37, wood, Musei Vaticani, Rome 

Fig. 3, Anonymous, Equestrian Statue of Emperor Henry II, circa 1230, stone, Bamberg Cathedral, Bamberg

Fig. 4, Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, 161-80, A.D., bronze, Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome

Fig. 5, Marino Marini, Idea del cavaliere, plaster, 1955

Fig. 6, Théodore Gericault, Officier de Chasseurs à Cheval, 1812, oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris