… this rider does not leave his post in the madness of the modern world, a world that offers such a plethora of ways to die.
This is from the essay ‘Symbol and the Miracle: Marini’s Miracolo at the Reichtstag’ by Peter-Klaus Schuster found in Marino Marini Miracolo edited by Cristina Inês Steinbräber (2007):
… “[M]y horse-and-rider sculptures are symbols for the apprehension that overcomes me when I consider my times. My horses become more and more restless and the riders less and less able to master them. The catastrophe that overcomes man and animal resembles that which destroyed Pompeii and Sodom. I am seeking to symbolize in this way the last phase of a waning myth, the myth of the individual, victorious hero, the ‘uomo di virtu’ of the humanists. I see my late works not as heroic but as tragic.”
[line break added] In surprising opposition to this decided pessimism, we find in Marini’s representations of the motif Miracolo — which is the source for all of his collapsing warriors and riders in mid-fall, fearing for their lives — that horse and rider remain inextricably united. The riders in depictions of the Miracolo, sitting on horseback in a perilous balance, are nevertheless able to counterbalance the elemental perturbation of their animals. This, precisely, is the visualized idea of their miracle.
[line break added] Both the horses whose forelegs buckle dramatically as well as those which rear up are unable to throw off their riders. Lithe as acrobats, bold as rodeo cowboys, or as if tied fast to the horse like circus riders, these riders withstand every jarring position on their horses. The creature’s ecstatic gesture of suffering becomes the counterpart to the extreme slanting position of the rider. Unable to control the animal’s irrational demeanor, human reason — taking the form of the rider — miraculously remains firmly seated on the horse’s back.
Through such unerring perseverance, almost a merging of the rider who is leaning far back into his horse as it pushes up into the sky like a wedge, Marino’s Miracolo in front of the Berlin Reichstag makes visible a miracle that is in diametrical opposition to the Saul / St-Paul-miracle of the Bible. According to the Biblical story, Saul, feared as a persecutor of Christians, was blinded on his way to Damascus by a vision of Christ and fell helplessly off his horse.
[line break added] Three days later, he miraculously regained his eyesight and began a life in the service of the Christian doctrine as the apostle Paul. With Marini, or so it seems, this miracle that inspires a change for the good plays no part. But even in the midst of the greatest catastrophe, even throughout the ongoing misfortune of this world as reflected in the rearing horse, man does not fall.
[line break added] Even if the rider’s helmet is already riddled with holes, even if his armor and body are torn open and have suffered damage, even if he seems burnt, contaminated with radiation or distorted into a phantasmal insect, this rider does not leave his post in the madness of the modern world, a world that offers such a plethora of ways to die.
… Marini was … fascinated with acrobats all his life, regarding them as the melancholic symbol for the vagrancy and infirmity of human existence. Marini’s rider who is perpetually falling and yet never crashing to the ground, is as it were, an acrobatic, “teetering figure” …
The following is from ‘Marino Marini: Of Horses and Men’ by Sibylle Luig found in the same book:
… We find a further variation on the theme of horse and rider in the depiction of the jugglers. Erich Steingräber describes Marini’s fascination with this subject as follows: “The nomadic, rootless figures of traveling folk — dancers, acrobats, jugglers — were for Marini symbolic representations of our frailty and proximity to the abyss, of the balancing act of modern man, no longer rooted in an all-encompassing culture, who lives a ‘pluralistic’ life without a binding worldview; yet these figures at the same time express a primordial, still nomadic human existence, in rhythmic unison with the universe.”
[line break added] This confirms that the works on jugglers, dancers and acrobats do indeed have a tragic component. But more often than not, they posses a great lightness and buoyancy, perhaps expressing a longing for the assumed lightness of this form of existence.