Sphere within a Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro

A. Pomodoro, Sfera con sfera, bronzo, 1990, Musei Vaticani, Cortile della Pigna

Inventory Number: 24850

Arnaldo Pomodoro was born in Morciano di Romagna (Rimini) in 1926. Between 1949 and 1952 he attended the Art Institute of Pesaro where he pursued his interest in scenic design and jewelry. In 1954 he moved to Milano, where he became acquainted with the fervent cultural environment of the city, spending time with artists as Lucio Fontana and Enrico Baj. At the same time, he began to exhibit in Italy and abroad.
The first sculptures date back to the mid-fifties: reliefs modeled in iron, tin, lead, silver and bronze. The desire to try out new ways of form and expression is strongly evident. In 1959 he went to the United States where he met the sculptors David Smith and Louise Nevelson, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso; he was invited to teach at prestigious Universities such as Stanford and Berkeley. In 1960 he joined the group “Continuità” which includes also Bemporad, Consagra, Fontana, Perilli, Novelli, Tancredi, Turcato, D’orazio and his brother Giò Pomodoro. In this context he deepened the research between matter, materials and sign and refined his stylistic balance between external and internal geometries.
The sculptures of the sixties mark the opening of his research from the frontality of the relief to the spatial complexity of the shapes. Starting from abstract and geometric researches as well as from informal art, Pomodoro comes to simple forms, rigorously aggregated. On the shiny and smooth surface emerge lacerations and perforations of gears, as if it were autonomous and transparent mechanisms.

Throughout his long and well-known international career, Pomodoro received many commissions both public and private around the world. His monumental works are currently placed in large squares, in Italy and abroad, as the Sfera in front of the United Nations Building in New York. He currently lives and works in Milano in his studio located in Porta Ticinese. In 1995 he established the Arnaldo Pomodoro Foundation in Milano, which aims to promote studies on the history and criticism of the sculpture process in the twentieth century. Since the sixties, Arnaldo Pomodoro, fascinated by the geometry of the sphere, began to create numerous versions of it, often designed to be located in urban areas of great importance. Among many great examples, there are Sfera Grande, made in 1966, for the Italian Pavilion at the Expo in Montreal, currently located in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome, and Sfera con Sfera, 1991, located in the Square of the United Nations in New York.
The artist considers this geometry “perfect, magical” and is attracted by the possibility of discovering “internal, mysterious, living, monstrous, and pure fermentations.”
Therefore, he does not create frozen and impenetrable elements, but responds instead to the inherent need of humans to discover by creating spheres that can move and rotate, thus forming a connection with both the visitor and the surrounding space.
Pomodoro uses the surrounding context of is works to determine the size and the development 70 of their internal gears, splits and indentations. Created between 1989 and 1990, the monumental Sfera con Sfera, placed in the Cortile della Pigna, is the outcome of a project launched in 1963 and resulted from an idea by Carlo Pietrangeli, Director of the Vatican Museums at that time, and Italo Mussa, his former assistant at the Capitoline Museums. In the great Renaissance courtyard there was a fountain, removed in the nineteenth century to accommodate the base of the column of Antoninus Pius, replaced after 1870 by a column commemorating the First Vatican Ecumenical Council, which was later removed for stability problems.
It was also on this occasion that it was proposed to Arnaldo Pomodoro to design a sculpture for this open space; the sculptor used the surrounding architecture as a starting point in order to decide the sculptures proportions.
As he recounts on September the 27th, 1990 in his inaugural address: “My study of the proportions of this sculpture has been linked with both the pinecone, with the staircase of Michelangelo, which leads to the balustrade, and, especially, with the space of the courtyard, which has influenced me for its perfection of opening to the sky and to the inner life, in the combination of all the buildings. I must say that, lately, watching the courtyard, the idea was to repeat the size of the arc, namely, that this form repeated constantly, of about 4 meters, had – in my opinion – to be the diameter of the ball.”