In 1917 Marini enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. It was here that he developed an interest in Northern European sculpture as well as Etruscan and Roman art. 'Cavaliere' shows Marini drawing on these artistic traditions in his equestrian theme. In the perfect unity between horse and rider, it recalls German sculptures of medieval knights on horseback and the mythical heroes depicted in Classical metopes and friezes.
This work also signals a significant shift in Marini’s treatment of the theme. Having experienced the violence of World War Two, during which he saw Lombard peasants fleeing the bombings on their frightened horses, the tone of Marini’s work changed dramatically. In contrast to the poised riders and horses from the 1930s 'Cavaliere' is filled with movement as the animal rears its head, extends its neck and tilts its body backwards. This image prefigures his later works in which anguished riders gesture dramatically as they are unable to control increasingly restless horses.
As well as reflecting his personal response to the war, Marini saw the equestrian theme as having a wider significance: “the entire history of humanity and nature can be found in the figure of the horse and rider”. In 'Cavaliere' Marini’s naked, bareback figure evokes the relationship of man to the natural world. Moreover, he has presented the horse and his defiant rider as symbols of strength and vitality. With its out-thrust head and neck, the horse signifies sexual potency, its pose foreshadowing that of Marini’s famous phallic sculpture 'Angel of the Citadel' (1948-9), which belongs to the Guggenheim collection in Venice.
Private Collection, Switzerland
Di San Lazzaro, Marino Marini, L'oeuvre complet, illus. p.395, no.37
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Fondazione Marino Marini dated 5 May 2016 and is recorded in the archives under number 736