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(from the book-Scultura Moderna in Lombardia)

Nothing moves an artful eye more than walking around a sculpture representing the human figure. Innate curiosity about the physical self is different from intellectually admiring a minimalist piece of steel or a conceptually conceived “installation“. Yes, you may disagree with that statement, of course.

There are few places in the United States unlike Europe where you can walk “in the round” and exercise that pleasure. Instead, we take to architecture, the higher and uglier the better with or without “spires“, and we proclaim it the highest with the vanity of a generation far removed from those generations that had the “conviction” of building cathedrals of any kind for something beyond “the self“. Yes, sculpture is hard work be it in clay, marble, bronze or steel. It is from earth and sweat made round!

Instead of the “conviction of” we carry “opinion” on our sleeve. As if, it were a birth right, and not something that gets nurtured over time, through self education and with life’s experience, with passion and through the ups and downs, all in all well founded opinions.

Yes, you are invited to disagree here as well.

LET ME SHARE WITH YOU A REALLY OUTSTANDING EXPERIENCE. I own this book, Scultura Moderna in Lombardia from which the above photographs were taken, and read it occasionally, as it is the story of sculpture and sculptors which shaped the feel of cities in Italy.

Now to the meat: The greatest Twentieth Century Italian Sculptors whose last names incidentally all start with the letter M are:

Arturo Martini, Marino Marini and Giacomo Manzu.

All of these sculptors are covered, and many others in this exhaustive folio size exquisitely produced book by the Italian Cariplo Bank in a limited edition for their clients in 1981. Imagine today, your bank sending you a gift and thanking you for your patronage. The emphasis in this post today, for a good reason, is on Giacomo Manzu (1908-1991).I will borrow some images from the book here to give you some idea what is so different about his sculpture, and for what he is best known.

Manzu’s work comes to us primarily in bronze in a variety of sizes. To illustrate this, I am borrowing some images from his first dealer the Tasende Gallery in the United States who started to work with him in 1974 when he was at the apex of his creative power. I actually own one of Tasende’s catalogs having superb images, and is very erudite as well.

Here is an image of Manzu’s “Cardinals” in bronze 11 feet high in front of their gallery in La Jolla, California.

img676So powerful is his sculpture, but also his drawings. (from the Tasende Gallery catalog)

img675img677Let us not forget Manzu’s obsession with the seat. The straw seat was often found in the poorest, but also the richest of homes throughout Italy. It is the symbol of “home, family, earth bound, sitting in the sun”.

img674 Manzu, the man, the artist, the communist, a Catholic by birth, who was born in Bergamo the earthy place below the mountains from where Pope John XXIII hailed as well. A place where tough, strong willed peasants with traditional family values live. A good biography about Manzu comes again from Tasende.

img678img679A communist sculptor invited by a Pope to sculpt the doors of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome for all eternity and millions to see, but why?

The answer is in the book underlined in red in the above bibliography and shown below.

img662img667img666I bought this book on Saturday, as a reading copy for the story. I read elsewhere about the famous bronze doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome previously. The book was on a shelve without purpose it seemed. I did not bother to look inside, assuming from the cover that the book would be a good copy.

When I came home and perused the books I bought that very same day there it was.

img668A beautifully signed copy by Manzu!

Perhaps he knew I would write this post and share the story of the doors from this site.

To make it really special, I found this wonderful Italian video on Youtube showing a superb Exhibition of Manzu sculpture. Never mind if you do not speak Italian. “Walk in the round” and be enthralled!

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