Lot 7
  • 7

Marino Marini

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Marino Marini
  • Cavaliere
  • stamped MM and numbered 4/6
  • bronze
  • height: 99cm.; 39in.


Robert Strauss, Houston
Jeffrey Loria, New York
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1985)
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Umbro Apollonio, Marino Marini. Sculptor, Milan, 1958, illustration of another cast p. 52
Abraham M. Hammacher, Marino Marini . Sculpture, Painting, Drawing, London, 1970, no. 133, illustation of another cast p. 133
Patrick Waldberg, Herbert Read & Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, Marino Marini, Complete Works, New York, 1970, no. 230, illustration of another cast n.p.
Carlo Pirovano, Marino Marini, Scultore, Milan, 1972, no. 237, illustrations of another cast pp. 95 & 100
David Finn, Marino Marini. The Sculpture, New York, 1993, illustration of the plaster pp. 52-53
Fondazione Marino Marini (ed.), Marino Marini. Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculptures, Milan, 1998, no. 302b, illustration of another cast p. 212

Catalogue Note

A dominating theme of Marini's art, the subject of horse and rider underwent a number of stylistic transformations throughout the decades, from the simple, rounded forms of the early 1940s, to the highly stylised, almost abstract manner of his late works. With its solid forms, the pronounced vertical and horizontal lines, and the figure of the rider firmly seated on the horse's back, Cavaliere recalls the calmer, more harmonious renderings of the theme, which culminated in the famous wooden sculpture The Town's Guardian Angel of 1949-50, and its monumental bronze variant dominating Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice.

Having lived in Switzerland during the second half of the war, Marini returned to Milan in 1946, and immediately started working, developing some of his favourite themes into highly sophisticated and refined images. His role as a leading sculptor on the Italian as well as international scene was reaffirmed at the Venice Biennale of 1948, where he was elected as one of the jury members, and assigned an exhibition room for his work. His renderings of the horse and rider theme during this period are characterised by a sense of tranquillity, with both man and animal appearing unperturbed, unlike the more dramatic, falling figures that dominated Marini's sculpture of the 1950s.

Carlo Pirovano wrote: 'When he returned to Milan after the war [...], Marino began to work again with great enthusiasm. He seemed to be possessed by an uncontrollable creative drive that expressed itself not so much in the formulation of new themes or the proposal of refined narrative motifs as in the sophisticated formal variation of compositions that were apparently banal and predictable in their subject matter' (C. Pirovano in Marino Marini, Mitografia (exhibition catalogue), Galleria dello Scudo, Verona, 1994-95, p. 52). Writing about Marini's horse and rider imagery from this period, Pirovano further observed: 'The interaction between the two protagonists increased in intensity, with ever-closer links creating interdependence that was emotional rather than merely functional (in the sense of the use of the animal simply as a means of transport). This merging into a single entity accentuated, first and foremost, the metaphorical aspects, while on a formal plane it caused the monocentric equilibrium to slowly deteriorate, leading to a dynamic explosion, with all its excitement and anguish, that was to be the dominant theme of Marino's work of the Fifties' (ibid., p. 54).

Throughout his oeuvre, Marini sought to challenge the familiar portrayals of horse and rider: those commissioned images of triumphant man dominating mighty beast, whose primary purpose was to help boost the ego and reputation of an individual. Jacques-Louis David’s painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps, of 1801, is perhaps the most well-known example of this type of horse and rider propaganda, but Marini had of course been exposed to countless other sculptural examples, since equestrian monuments, such as Donatello’s Gattamelata, dating from 1450, were to be found in the piazzas of many Italian towns. It is with this long tradition of the horse and rider image in mind that we begin to appreciate the magnitude of Marini’s attack on the canon of art history. He was looking at a subject that had been painted and sculpted countless times and treating it in a completely innovative way, manipulating a stagnant genre to make it relevant. The present work is the antithesis of a traditional horse and rider image designed to elevate the status of an individual. Instead this rider is without identity and yet this extraordinary and iconic sculpture succeeds in representing the universal man.    

Several other casts of this work are in important public collections, including the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich and the Blanden Memorial Art Musuem, Fort Dodge. The coated plaster version is in the collection of the Museo Marino Marini, San Pancrazio, Florence.