Lion of Monterosso by Arturo Martini

Mr. & Mrs. Rasmussen, Carolinas Chapter

Martini inv 23327

Leone di Monterosso is one of the preparatory models that Arturo Martini completed during the creation of an artwork commissioned by Arturo Ottolenghi in 1932. The desired location for this masterpiece was his villa on a hill in Monterosso, near Acqui Terme. The Ottolenghi Counts, Arturo and Herta von Wedekind zu Horst, relied on the well-known architect Marcello Piacentini to build their residence in 1920. Following its completion, they entrusted very important artists with the decoration of their villa. Among these were Fortunato Depero, Adolfo Wildt, Libero Andreotti, Ferruccio Ferrazzi and Arturo Martini.
The amazing sculptor from Treviso started working on the Lion project during the summer of 1932. He carried out various replicas in which he developed the composition’s structure. The artist gave particular attention to the animal’s muzzle and tail -elements that for artists associate with the description of the animal’s personality.
It is interesting to remember how Martini initially intended to depict a chimaera rather than a lion. A Chimaera is a beast from Greek mythology that has a lion’s head and body, a snake’s tail and a second head -that of a goat. This choice reveals the grand fascination the artist has with regards to Etruscan sculptures: «I am the true Etruscan -Martini declared -they gave me the language and I gave them voice to speak. I expressed them. I could have created thousands of statues, made just as they would have imagined them». For the Lion of Monterosso, the artist drew his inspiration from Chimera d’Arezzo, an absolute masterpiece, found in 1553 near the city after which it takes the name. Today, it is in the National Archeological Museum in Florence. Enlightened by this model, Martini molds a first study out of plaster. Ottolenghi appreciated the “bozzetto”, which he defined as «strong and terrible, and marvelous»; while other people closer to the artist criticized it. To these perplexities and criticisms Martini responded that he did not «want to create a lion like those that are in the Zoological Museum», rather he intended to create «a Chimaera, inspired by a lion and all the other beasts. Monterosso will distinguish himself thanks to the fantastic Lion.» This variation will appear clearly in the following phases of the creative process, while keeping the memory of this fantastic beast alive. This metamorphosis is shown even more in the terracotta version that was brought to the Vatican in 1959, when Pius XII commissioned the creation of two rooms dedicated to the art of the 20th century within the art gallery. The finalized artwork, made out of red Simona rock from Valcamonica, reached its completion in September 1934.