Il Grande Miracolo
Throughout much of his career the artist Marino Marini was preoccupied with the motif of a man on horseback. The subject had both a formal and emotional fascination for him. His early static sculptures and his later works such as Grande Miracolo from 1953 in Rotterdam have a subdued tension.
The horse rears up on its hind legs with its neck stretched and its head pointing into the air. Only the animal’s front legs, which hang loosely from its massive body, appear to keep the horse in balance. In this frozen stance – as if the animal is momentarily weightless before finally falling – the horse appears to give into the inevitable. Compared with the horse, the rider is rather small and almost falls from the horse. Like an acrobat he clings to the animal with his legs. One can discern a deep angst and despair in the horse and rider.
The Committee for the Establishment of the Pleinweg Memorial proposed installing this falling rider as a monument on the site where twenty citizens were executed by a Nazi firing squad during the Second World War. For many people Marini’s sculpture symbolises the horrors of the war.
exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The museum acquired one of
the exhibits – a bronze horse and rider. In this sculpture the horse
stands firmly with its four feet on the ground; both the horse and rider
embody strength and a lust for life. The sculpture is sited in the
museum’s sculpture garden.
Another sculpture of a horse and rider included in the exhibition caught
the attention of the Committee for the Establishment of the Pleinweg
Memorial. The sculpture evoked their memories of the Second World War.
They wished to give it a place in Rotterdam-Zuid, close to the spot
where twenty citizens were shot by firing squad in March 1945. With the
consent of various interested parties, including the Wijkraad Oud en
Nieuw Charlois, the Stichting Herrijzend Rotterdam and the National
Monuments Commission, it was decided to acquire the sculpture. That
another version of the sculpture already stood in the German city of
Mannheim was not considered an obstacle, and the artist gave his
guarantee that no more copies of the sculpture would be cast.
In July 1957 the sculpture was presented to the city council. The work
was placed on a plinth bearing an inscription after the words of P.
Begeer: ‘1940-1945 For the unnamed victims who fell for freedom,
immortalised through the offer of their lives.’ The sculpture was
unveiled on 4 May 1958 by Frans Lam, the 12-year-old son of one of the
victims. Since then the sculpture has been re-sited several times,
including during the construction of the metro. Since 1989 it has stood
150 metres from the site where the drama took place, protected by a
1901 - 1980
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