Marcello Mascherini

(Udine 1906 - Padova 1983)

St George (1956)

Measures: cm (h) 200 x 70

Technique: Bronze sculpture

Bibliography: Catalogo generale dell’opera plastica, Umberto Allemandi, 1998, no. 446.

Sculpture made for the transatlantic liner San Giorgio, launched in March 1956 by the San Marco shipyard in Trieste.

In 1931, when he was only 25 years old, Marcello Mascherini was noticed by the architect Gustavo Pulitzer Finali from Trieste, who designed the interior of the motorship Victoria. He was involved in the sculptural decoration of the first class ballroom, for which he made the two busts of the King and the Duce. This moment marked the beginning of his prestigious collaborations with artists and architects such as Libero Andreotti and Gio Ponti and, in fact, opened the way for him to decorate ships and transatlantic liners, which would last until the 1960s.

For this specific production, the artist relies on a style halfway between the re-elaboration of 15th-century sculpture and a very personal language, at times filiform, at times fuller and more graceful, consisting of a playful and vital line, which flows into an extremely modern expressionism of international prestige. The ancient stylistic features, halfway between the geometric taste of archaic Greek sculpture and the softer taste of classical language, lead to the production of figures with an archaic flavour, reminiscent of votive or apotropaic statuettes. Examples are the sculptures or bas-reliefs made for the ships Calitea, Saturnia, Roma, Italia, often decorated with characters from Homeric poems and Greek mythology in general.

The Saint George, executed for the transatlantic liner of the same name, launched in March 1956 by the San Marco shipyard in Trieste, differs from the previous subjects. The bronze sculpture dedicated to the saint stood against the wall of the ship’s first class atrium, creating a curious contrast with the architectural linearity of the rooms and furnishings, designed by his friend Pulitzer Finali. St. George, with his vertical and sharp lines, perfectly embodies the values of the early Christian martyr, in full respect of the medieval and proto-Renaissance iconography, which sees him wrapped in armour and clutching the sword (or lance) used to slay the dragon. The subtle essentiality of the lines of the armour gives the sculpture an extremely lively taste and at the same time gives it a deliberate rigidity, which is released in a chiastic stance that is anything but classicist, indeed profoundly Gothic.

For the entire length of the body, the rhythm of counterpoint dominates, in which the angles of the armour give movement and make the subject unique. Despite the fact that the saint’s face and almost hieratic posture recall archaic or medieval memories, it is impossible not to recognise points of contact with Donatello’s Saint George in marble for the church of Orsanmichele in Florence in 1416. The static front and the serene gravitas of the smile give physical and moral resolve to the statue, which differs from Donatello’s in the absence of the shield and the decidedly more broken lines. The last mention should be made of Ulysses and the Sirens, made two years earlier for the ship Homeric, a statue that has the same inventive whimsy as the Saint George and which respects the language adopted by Mascherini during the 1950s: his figures lengthen, become thinner and are filled with a temperament that is sometimes fable-like and sometimes dramatic.

Elena Lago



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