Details & Cataloguing

The Italian Sale


Mario Schifano
1934 - 1998
signed, titled and dated 65 on the reverse
enamel and graphite on canvas
135 by 100 cm. 53 1/8 by 39 3/8 in.
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This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. 


Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist in the late 1960s)

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Rome and New York, Pino Molica Gallery, Europa – America 360, 1994


Mario Schifano and Giorgio Sacchi, Mario Schifano: A) I°, Opere su tela 1956–1982, Milan 2008, p. 78, no. 65/055, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

A key member of the 1960s Roman Pop art movement, also known as the Scuola Romana, Mario Schifano is revered as one of the most important Italian avant-gardists of the later Twentieth Century. Combing the artist’s iconic Pop aesthetic with a Futurist thematic, N. 3 degli archivi del futurism is a true masterpiece of Schifano’s 1960s production. Part of a series of works the artist created between 1965 and 1966 in response to an exhibition catalogue on Giacomo Balla and the Futurist movement, N. 3 degli archivi del futurismo is a painting of remarkable cultural heritage. The acclaimed art historian Maurizio Calvesi gave Schifano the catalogue of the Futurist exhibition curated by Enrico Crispolti at the Civic Gallery of Modern Art in Turin in 1963. As Calvesi recalled: “Soon afterwards Mario… took the catalogue to the United States where he started developing a series of works inspired by Futurism, which he continued to make until 1966” (Maurizio Calvesi cited in: Luca Ronchi, Mario Schifano Una Biografia, Monza 2012, pp. 59-60). Echoing the Futurists' call for an art that reflected the dynamism, energy and movement of modern life, this series is a seminal paradigm of Schifano's bold artistic vision.

In 1912, Balla had embarked on a series of motion studies – a dog walking on a leash, a girl running on a balcony, the rhythms of a violinist’s hand – that captured a rapid succession of shots on a single canvas. N. 3 degli archivi del futurismo is similarly formed of a sequential reiteration of gloved-arms and booted-legs in an implied leftward motion. Despite its overall abstract quality, the objects that make up N. 3 degli archivi del futurismo are strictly figurative: we are shown a set of boots, gloved-arms, and a wheel firmly attached to a seemingly wooden stick. This central wheel further accentuates the overall kinetic energy of the composition, and forms a key symbolic element in this unique representation of motion.

Like Balla’s work from the early 1910s, N. 3 degli archivi del futurismo is reminiscent of Etienne Jules Marey’s chronophotography, a predecessor of cinematography. In 1883, Marey completed the first fixed-plate chronophotograph camera that produced sequential images on one plate. The camera required the subjects to wear white or be strongly lit during their movement in front of a black background. This monochromatic aspect of Marey’s work is one that is maintained in Schifano’s N. 3 degli archivi del futurismo. Albeit decorated with a few areas of orange, the painting is primarily designed in black, white, and grey. As a result, the composition feels like the result of a motion study, where one is truly reminded of the origins of cinema and the sequential recordings of movement.

At once iconic of the artist's distinct casual brushstrokes and evocative of the very high point of the Roman post-war avant-garde, N. 3 degli archivi del futurismo is a true masterpiece of its time.

The Italian Sale