Giacomo Manzù


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(b Bergamo, 22 Dec. 1908; d Ardea, nr. Rome, 17 Jan. 1991).

Italian sculptor. From the age of 11, he worked successively for a woodcarver, a gilder, and a stucco-worker, but he was virtually self-taught as an artist. His early work was influenced by Egyptian and Etruscan art, but he then turned to a more Impressionistic style owing much to the example of Rodin and Medardo Rosso. In the 1940s he simplified his style, so that although the surface of his work is often animated, the feeling it produces is one of classic calm. His sculpture included nudes, portraits, and scenes from everyday life, but he was best known for religious subjects. In 1938 he produced his first figure of a cardinal, a type of work that became particularly associated with him. These figures have been variously interpreted as expressions of an anticlerical attitude or as glorifications of ecclesiastical dignity, but Manzù himself always said that he regarded them as still lifes with no deeper significance than a plate of apples, representing ‘not the majesty of the church but the majesty of form’. His most famous work is the set of bronze doors he made for St Peter's in Rome after winning an international competition in 1950 (they were not completed until 1964). In 1958 he also completed a set of doors for Salzburg Cathedral and in 1968 one for the church of St Lawrence in Rotterdam. These works have been much praised and show the possibility of producing sculpture that fits within a traditional religious context and yet is in a modern and personal idiom. Manzù also worked as an etcher, lithographer, and painter.

Subjects: Art.

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