Francesco Messina
Born(1900-12-15)15 December 1900
Died13 September 1995(1995-09-13) (aged 94)
Milan, Italy
Known forSculpture
Notable workCavallo morente (Dying horse)

I quattro cavalli di bronzo (The Four bronze horses)

Siren etc.
AwardsPrize for sculpture in 1942 at the Biennale Internazionale d'Arte of Venice;
Michelangelo Prize (1963)

Francesco Messina (15 December 1900 – 13 September 1995) was an Italian sculptor of the 20th century.[1]

Biography and career

Francesco Messina was born at Linguaglossa in the Province of Catania in a very poor family.[2] Growing up in Genoa, where he also studied and lived until he was 32, he then moved to Milan.

Art historians[who?] consider him one of the most important figurative sculptors of Novecento, together with Giacomo Manzù, Arturo Martini, Marino Marini. He is the author of some of the greatest works of the Novecento Italiano[citation needed] and his sculptures are displayed in the most famous museums, among which: Bern, Zürich, Gothenburg, Oslo, Munich, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Venice, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vienna, Washington, D.C. and Tokyo.

From 1922, he began exhibiting his work regularly at the Biennale Internazionale d'Arte in Venice and between 1926 and 1929 he took part in the expos organised by the art group Novecento Italiano in Milan. In 1932, he moved to Milan, where in 1934 he obtained a tenured professorship 1934 in Sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, of which he became the director within two years.

During those years, about him wrote Carlo Carrà:

Francesco Messina's sculpture is characterised by a simple and grandiose manner, by an idealistic and classic procedure, able to give life to forms which become "ideal images".[3]

In the 1930s, Messina exhibited at important collective expos of Italian art in Barcelona, Berlin, Bern, Gothenburg, Munich, Oslo, Paris, São Paulo, Zurich, while executing various sculptures in many Italian cities.[4] In 1936 he was appointed director of the Accademia di Brera, which position he will keep until 1944. His work was also part of the sculpture event in the art competition at the 1936 Summer Olympics.[5]

In 1938, Giorgio de Chirico in Rome and Salvatore Quasimodo in Turin presented two personal exhibitions of Messina's work. In 1942 he won the Sculpture Prize at the XXIII Biennale Internazionale d’arte of Venice, where he exhibited fifteen sculptures and seventeen drawings.

In 1943, Messina was appointed Academic Emeritus of Italy. On the collapse of the fascist regime, he was temporarily dismissed from the academy, only because he had been its director during the fascist period. However, by 1947 he had already regained his professorship. In the same period the artist took part in the Graphic & Sculpture Expo at Buenos Aires, in the Muller Gallery, achieve a noticeable success. In 1949 he exhibited at the 3rd Sculpture International held by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, together with Marino Marini and Picasso.

Romantica, c. 1973 (Fondazione Cariplo)

In 1956 he participated with a personal exhibition at the XXVIII Biennale di Venezia. In 1963 he produced the great monument to Pope Pius XII for St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, as well as the bust of Pietro Mascagni for the Teatro alla Scala. In the same year he was awarded the Michelangelo Prize for Sculpture in Florence.

In 1966 Messina was commissioned by Italian RAI to create the Cavallo morente (Dying Horse), which became the Italian national TV logo, placed at the entrance of the RAI Building in Rome. In 1968, he sculpted the monument to Pope Pius XI for the Milan Cathedral. In the 1970s the Vatican assigned him the Sala Borgia of the Vatican Gallery Paulus VI, dedicated to modern sacred art, as his permanent exhibition of twenty sculptures with a sacred theme.

In 1974 the City of Milan opened the Civico Museo-Studio Francesco Messina in the ancient former church of "San Sisto al Carrobbio". This will remain the artist's permanent and official studio until his death, also hosting c. eighty sculptures (gessos, polychrome terracottas, bronzes, waxes) and thirty graphic works (lithographies, pastels, acquarellos, pencil drawings) donated to the City of Milan.

In 1978 Messina attended two important exhibitions in the Soviet Union at the Pushkin Museum of Moscow and at the Hermitage of Saint Petersburg, both of which will open dedicated sections of his sculptures, with ca. 80 pieces on display.[6] In 1981, in the former church of Saint Francis in Pordenone, an exhibition was held of his unpublished drawings, and in the same period a sculpture display at the Palazzo Flangini-Biglia of Sacile. Between 1984 and 1986, his sculptures were exhibited at the Theseus Tempel of Vienna, at the Hirshhorn Museum of Washington and the Gallery Universe of Tokyo.

Until his death in Milan in 1995, Messina continued his work of sculptor and painter and, assisted by his daughter Paola, amended and proofread the numerous biographies dedicated to him all over the world.[citation needed]


The Francesco Messina Museum [it], in the former Church of Saint Sixtus, Milan

A selection of Messina's work (ca. 100) is permanently exhibited within the former Church of Saint Sixtus[9] in Milan. (see photo at right)



See also


  1. ^ Cf. F. Negri Arnoldi, Storia dell'Arte Moderna, Milan, 1990, p. 624.
  2. ^ Reuters (September 15, 1995). "Francesco Messina, 94, Italian Sculptor". The New York Times. ((cite news)): |author= has generic name (help)
  3. ^ Carlo Carrà, Francesco Messina scultore, Galleria Milan, March 1929.
  4. ^ See for example the monument to Christopher Columbus in Chiavari (1936), and the equestrian monument in Pavia (1937)
  5. ^ "Francesco Messina". Olympedia. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  6. ^ These were donated by Messina during his staying there, in 1978.
  7. ^ On the peculiar story of these bronzes, see The Mystery of the Quadrille. Writer Piero Chiara mentions the strange story of where the horses ended up, in his book Una storia italiana:il caso Leone, published by Sperling & Kupfer in 1985.
  8. ^ Where he used singer and actress Maria Sole as model.
  9. ^ See also wiki:Commons images