Umberto Boccioni

Study for 'The City Rises', 1910
Studio per ‘La città che sale’

Tempera on paper
17.8 x 30.8 cm

Two enormous beasts of burden, radiating immense energy, constitute the main focus of this preparatory study for one of Umberto Boccioni’s early Futurist masterpieces. Identifiable only by their bridles, blinkers and harnesses, they dwarf their handlers, who struggle to control them. At the top right-hand corner of the work is a half-finished building, surrounded by scaffolding poles.

F. T. Marinetti may have had Boccioni’s image in mind when he asserted: “nothing is more beautiful than the steel frame of a house in construction”,(1) considering this to be an apt metaphor for human progress. The first owner of this piece – one of four existing colour studies – was the anti-Fascist intellectual Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, to whom the work is dedicated.

(1) ‘The Birth of a Futurist Aesthetic’, in F. T. Marinetti, Let’s Murder the Moonshine: Selected Writings, ed. by R. W. Flint (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1991), pp. 88-91 (p. 89).

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