The Quinto Martini Park-Museum in Seano: the poetry of simplicity


It was 1988 when the Park-Museum dedicated to Quinto Martini (Seano, 1908 - Florence, 1990), an important 20th-century sculptor who wanted to create a splendid park with his sculptures in his native village, opened in Seano.

When one admires a sculpture by Quinto Martini, at times, at a first careless glance, one might be overwhelmed by the temptation to consider his art as a sort of coda of nineteenth-century verism, an art strongly anchored to the naturalistic datum, an art of strict mimesis, at most retooled according to the modes of the dominant taste. On closer inspection, however, one will realize that Quinto Martini’s is a rather complex figure: meanwhile, he is an artist capable of transfiguring reality into a poetry with delicate, elegiac, ancestral accents. Then, we should not forget that Martini is a Tuscan very attached to his land, and that by his own admission he had no other masters outside of nature and Ardengo Soffici. He was twenty years old, Quinto Martini, when Vallecchi published Periplo dell’arte di Soffici in 1928: he had met the older painter a couple of years earlier, in Poggio a Caiano, a few hundred meters away from his Seano, and evidently that lesson would mark much of his future production.

One of the chapters in Periplo dell’arte is devoted to the pairing of Clarity and Realism: “let us understand by realism,” Soffici wrote, “the concept of totality, according to which matter and spirit are inseparable in every living entity, truth and fantasy complete each other, and so the outer and inner worlds, subject and object. [...] From the earliest birth of the arts up to a few years ago, artists, from the unknown ones of the caves up to Degas, Renoir, CÚzanne and Fattori, that is, for more than thousands of years, have done nothing but take inspiration from nature in creating their works, each with his own particular style, with the characteristic accent of his own soul.” These are words that Quinto Martini clearly decided to make his own, since they are perfectly suited to his art, an art of crystalline, everyday clarity that spans centuries of art history, rooted in the Etruscan statuary so masterfully interpreted, to arrive at a present where the monumental presence is reserved for a weekday humanity and with which the artist celebrates the life of the humblest, their affections, their habits.

It was in 1988 when the “Quinto Martini” Park-Museum was inaugurated in Seano, arising from an initiative of the then mayor of Carmignano, Antonio Cirri, and from an idea of the artist: the first citizen had asked Martini for a work to be placed in the town square, Piazza IV Novembre. So why not extend the initial purpose and open a park where he could display a large array of bronze sculptures? This was Quinto Martini’s counterproposal, accepted willingly and enthusiastically by the municipality: in the end, thirty-six works, cast from sculptures made between 1931 and 1988, were donated by Martini to the municipality and ended up being installed in the thirty-two thousand square meters of the large park that now bears the name of the sculptor and painter, one of the largest in Europe dedicated to the work of a single artist. The donation was tied to three conditions: the inclusion of the works in a “circumstantial space,” a location “connatural to the place,” and the possibility that the presence of the works could be made “for the benefit of all.” In order to make concrete the idea of the large garden, which would rise in place of some uncultivated fields that no one used anymore, one of the best Tuscan architects of the time, Ettore Chelazzi, was called in, and together with Quinto Martini they imagined the form to be given to the park: three tree-lined pathways, where holm oaks, poplars, cypresses and other typical local essences abound, lead to a vast central square, where one always arrives accompanied by the gentle and delicate presence of the works, which never abandon the visitor who wanders through the foliage.

Il Parco-Museo Quinto Martini a Seano
The Quinto Martini Park-Museum in Seano


Il Parco-Museo Quinto Martini a Seano
The Quinto Martini Park-Museum in Seano


Il Parco-Museo Quinto Martini a Seano
The Quinto Martini Park-Museum in Seano


Il Parco-Museo Quinto Martini a Seano
The Quinto Martini Park-Museum in Seano


Il Parco-Museo Quinto Martini a Seano
The Quinto Martini Park-Museum in Seano

The integration of sculpture and space is the soul that breathes life into this magical, lyrical place, filled with poetry, a poetry of simplicity: the park is itself an emblem of the common good, of sharing, a temple of recreation but also a site where one can pause and reflect, reason. It is the score on which the narrative of the land of Tuscany will take shape. The hills that surround it are “places of work and culture,” according to the formula used by the artist himself. They mark the rhythm of the narrative. The sculptures are the verses of this long poem dedicated to the simple life of the inhabitants of the rural areas of Tuscany. “My sculptures,” Martini had said in an interview with La Nazione in 1988, and reproduced in the catalog of the Park-Museum edited by Marco Fagioli and Lucia Minunno, “want first of all to express the simple vitality of this land. Therefore, not the delineation of a museum, but an appropriate insertion into that nature from which they were taken and where everyone can have their hours of freedom. Each of these statues responds within me with a different sound: different because of the memory of a particular situation, a particular mood, a different age. When I come here each one speaks to me in its own voice, which is then my own voice from the time of that time. Each of them is a child of a different time of mine, which so at a distance I could no longer even bring precisely into focus, perhaps because I never gave importance to the recording of time or what was happening around me.”

In that same interview, the artist stated that works should always remain in the place where they are born. And it is with this idea in mind that Martini marked the difference between a park and a museum: sculpture, when placed in an open surface, activates a direct exchange with the landscape that surrounds it and interacts with it (just think of the light conditions in the park, which can present us with the same sculpture in hundreds of different guises). The sculpture becomes a presence on the territory evoking its history, a sign of identification and sense of belonging, a symbol of balance, a tool for renewed knowledge, a lens through which to read the peculiarities of the land that hosts it, a ribbon that simultaneously binds the community, its culture and its space establishing a deeply dialectical relationship, an object that responds to a social function. The ensemble of works in the park composes a symbolic path that unravels in evocative stages, capable of leading visitors through a journey into a vanished dimension, along history, into the memories of a peasant reality that today’s productive society has almost completely erased. There is no trace of melancholy: Martini almost seems to want to remind us that, however much the epochs may change and the realities modify, the human being always has an unavoidable responsibility towards his history and the environment that allows him to live.

Quinto Martini, Martinaccio (1981; bronzo, 70 x 160 x 50 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Martinaccio (1981; bronze, 70 x 160 x 50 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Caccia al cinghiale (anni Ottanta del XX secolo; bronzo, 93 x 150 x 46 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Boar Hunt (1980s; bronze, 93 x 150 x 46 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Paperi in amore (1981; bronzo, 94 x 105 x 45 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Ducks in Love (1981; bronze, 94 x 105 x 45 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Serpi in amore (seconda metÓ degli anni Cinquanta del XX secolo; bronzo, 120 x 50 x 104 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Snakes in Love (second half of the 1950s; bronze, 120 x 50 x 104 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, A mia madre (fine anni Cinquanta del XX secolo; bronzo, 195 x 61 x 44 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, To My Mother (late 1950s; bronze, 195 x 61 x 44 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Torso di giocatore di bocce (1931; bronzo, 57 x 44,5 x 104 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Torso of bowler (1931; bronze, 57 x 44.5 x 104 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Ragazza seanese dormiente (1933; bronzo, 80 x 53 x 77 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Sleeping Seano Girl (1933; bronze, 80 x 53 x 77 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Cacciatore (anni Ottanta del XX secolo; bronzo, 230 x 105 x 78 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Hunter (1980s; bronze, 230 x 105 x 78 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Ragazza che prende l'oca (1972-1978; bronzo, 75 x 37 x 148 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Girl Taking Goose (1972-1978; bronze, 75 x 37 x 148 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Primavera (1965; bronzo, 190 x 61 x 56 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Spring (1965; bronze, 190 x 61 x 56 cm; Seano, Quinto Martini Park-Museum)

There are four possible entrances to the park. One enters from the northeastern entrance, where a double row of holm oaks leads us to the first square, along which are some examples of the animalistic sculpture that Quinto Martini often practiced from the 1960s until the end of his career, “in a naturalistic manner,” writes Marco Fagoli, “but with a margin of stylization always aimed in an appealing sense, in this revealing the artist’s lively sympathy for the animal world.” escorting the visitor along the beginning of the itinerary are thus a Martinaccio, or large snail (“martinaccio” is the name by which the inhabitants of Seano call the animal in their vernacular), a Caccia al cinghiale (Boar Hunt ) with a dog pouncing on the frightened swine to bite it (in a formidable essay in moving sculpture), and then a pair of Paperi in amore. Animals (later, towards the end of the path, one will also encounter a Rooster and two elegant Snakes in love) are a subject particularly felt by the artist, since, in the colorful and multifaceted world of nature, they are the beings closest and most similar to humans, and at the same time express those values of simplicity and spontaneity that Quinto Martini held dear. Then among the animal sculptures is a maternal tribute(To My Mother), translated into the everyday image of a mother going shopping with her baby in her arms.

Crossing the second square, the larger of the two that make up the park, a large paved oval, is tantamount to immersing oneself in a piece of village life: there is a Torso of a bowler that is among the most obvious results of the antiquarian culture of a Quinto Martini fascinated by Etruscan antiquities (something similar can be said for the sleeping Seanese Girl, an amused portrait of a slumbering commoner); a Hunter stands before us, arms raised, displaying his inert prey; there is a Girl taking a goose, although the title does not do justice to the stubbornness of the bird that escapes from the young woman who barefoot chases after it; there is a Spring holding a bouquet of roses; there is a Poor Beggar Girl forced to strut with a cardboard box on her head, caught in the act of extending her hand to beg for charity from passersby, in the most touching piece in the entire park. It is among these sculptures that Quinto Martini’s poetry is fully grasped: the square comes alive with the figures of its inhabitants, and one never feels the sense of loneliness that one sometimes feels in a museum, because the sculptures become living presences, telling of an ordinary, humble life, marked by the slowed, gentle rhythms of the countryside. Living presences that perhaps evoke faces that Quinto Martini really knew and in which today’s visitors perhaps mirror themselves: for the artist, after all, the identification between statue and relative had to be total. “The public,” he had written in 1953 in a letter to Nuovo Corriere, “has always approached those forms of art where it recognizes itself, that is, those expressions of life in which it participates.” Impossible not to find, among the trees in the park, a reason in which not to recognize oneself.

It could simply be a sign of affection, as is the case in The Friends, two naked girls embracing and caressing each other with an innocent gesture of graceful, chaste and naive finesse, and nudity becomes a condition that enhances the purity of their feeling. Or as it is in the tender Fatherhood, with the father looking into the eyes of the child he holds. Or a memory, perhaps evoked by one of the many female figures that abound in Quinto Martini’s production and that fill the park with classical and harmonious venusty: see the immediacy of theAlcea, one of the few dated sculptures (it is dated 1945), although we do not know for what reasons the sculptor wanted to give it that name. Or the disheveled and procupacious pose of the Bather, an admirable example of the virtuosity to which Quinto Martini’s modeling could go, and where one has no trouble discerning echoes of an Aristide Maillol. Or the music that seems to come out of the Guitar Player, heavily indebted to Picasso’s painting.

And finally, there is a group of sculptures with an almost mystical, metaphysical aura that refer to another, suspended dimension. It happens in an almost dechirichianWaiting, where a woman can be glimpsed between the doorsills of a door: it is “one of the most beautiful examples of Italian sculpture of those years,” wrote Marco Fagioli. And it happens in sculptures that interpret the elements of the atmosphere, rain in particular, which Quinto Martini loved, so much so that he centered one of his exhibitions at Palazzo Strozzi on this theme. His Figures in the Fog, a mother holding the hand of a child who is hard to see because of the mist that envelops them both, are among the most informal outcomes of his art, but this concession does not lose sight of the compass that directs Quinto Martini’s art, and becomes, if anything, a means of experimenting with further possibilities. The apex is perhaps reached with Rain, a bas-relief striped at an angle (an intuition that came to the artist in 1964: the work is three years later) where, among the dense downpours that cross the surface of the bronze, one glimpses the silhouette of a figure trying to take shelter. It is a Quinto Martini who does not neglect the search for optical effect, who elaborates new solutions to involve the observer even more, and who tries here to suggest not only an event, but also a state of mind, referring to the tradition of the late nineteenth century. “I’ve always liked rain,” he had said in a 1988 interview, “I like to hear it tapping on the glass because I was born, as I’ve always been told, during a heavy thunderstorm.”

Quinto Martini, Mendicante (1981; bronzo, 185 x 51 x 58 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Beggar (1981; bronze, 185 x 51 x 58 cm; Seano, Quinto Martini Park-Museum)


Quinto Martini, Le amiche (1972-1978; bronzo, 145 x 33 x 44 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, The Friends (1972-1978; bronze, 145 x 33 x 44 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, PaternitÓ (prima metÓ degli anni Sessanta del XX secolo; bronzo, 187 x 61 x 50 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Paternity (first half of the 1960s; bronze, 187 x 61 x 50 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Alcea (1942; bronzo, 72 x 37 x 130 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Alcea (1942; bronze, 72 x 37 x 130 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Bagnante (prima metÓ degli anni Quaranta; bronzo, 71 x 96 x 132 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Bather (first half of the 1940s; bronze, 71 x 96 x 132 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Suonatore di chitarra (1946; bronzo, 89 x 90 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Guitar Player (1946; bronze, 89 x 90 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Attesa (1981; bronzo; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Waiting (1981; bronze; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Figure nella nebbia (anni Ottanta del XX secolo; bronzo, 178 x 79 x 43 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Figures in the Fog (1980s; bronze, 178 x 79 x 43 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)


Quinto Martini, Pioggia (1967; bronzo, 155 x 99 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)
Quinto Martini, Rain (1967; bronze, 155 x 99 cm; Seano, Parco-Museo Quinto Martini)

For Quinto Martini, art also meant civic commitment (“an artist who has a commitment to himself,” he wrote, “has a commitment to society”): perhaps this is also why he took care, through his drawings, paintings and sculptures, to compose and model humble works, devoid of any rhetoric, simple but capable of shunning banality, of branding it as the worst of the errors that hinder an artist’s path. And it is relevant that for Quinto Martini the civil commitment of art did not resolve itself into an art of history, or into an art of philosophical subtleties, much less into a political art, moreover in the years when the political role of art was at the center of cultural debate. Quinto Martini’s art is completely insensitive to contingency, and it is behind this element that the artist’s commitment lies.

Yet, walking through the park, not even the impression of a man detached from his time, who has decided to isolate himself in his countryside and entrench himself behind that appearance of shy modesty that his works convey. On the contrary: he is an artist perfectly inserted in his environment, he is a man aware of the problems of his time, he is an intellectual who knows the scope of the avant-garde. But in his art the present takes on the absolute dimensions of poetry, touching its peaks. And so we like perhaps to imagine Quinto Martini behind a window on a rainy day, that rain he so loved, observing his countryside, reflecting on the verbovisual poetry he must surely have known and trying to decline it in his own way, on his sheets alternating verses and drawings, to compose lyrics inspired by the days of his land, by time, by life: “I like the rain / the fog / the wind the day / the night / cold and frost / in winter / the scorching heat / in August / the silence of snow / the thin and fat cows / who is born who dies / I rejoice in spring / I love autumn / the end of the year / the year being born / flowers and thorns / along the way / everything makes me more alive / life passing by / walking does not tire / neither numbers nor dates / in my mind / all visual / days die / images remain / to remind me of memories / walking does not tire.”