Il cavallo di Maia, 1989
Aligi Sassu (Milan, 1912 – Pollença, 2000) was an Italian painter, sculptor and engraver. He was a key figure in twentieth-century art, making his mark as a 16-year-old at the 1928 Venice Biennale, when he was invited by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti to display his art at the Futurist Pavilion.
The horse is a recurring subject in his oeuvre. He initially depicted it with the formal techniques of painting, mostly in mythological and battle scenes. After 1939 and a prison term served for antifascist activity, he began to experiment with the formal means of sculpture in the pottery factory of Giuseppe Mazzotti in Albisola, which was an important meeting place of painters, sculptors and intellectuals. In this period, he also used the horse as his sole subject–from the 1960s onward in monumental representations (one well-known example is his Cavallo Impennato or “rearing horse”, created in 1960 and standing on Milan’s Via Brera).
The bronze sculpture Il cavallo di Maia was created by Sassu especially for the town of Meran/Merano. It is a late artwork and arguably the pinnacle of his artistic exploration of the horse subject, whose symbolic meaning combined with Sassu’s ideal of freedom, which was another recurring theme in his artistic output.
The sculpture was donated to Meran by U.N.I.R.E., the Italian national union for the promotion of horse breeding, and by the former management company of the local racecourse, Merano Maia SPA.