176. Francesco Messina (1900-1995)

Contemporary sculptor born in Linguaglossa, awarded with the prize for sculpture (1942) at the Biennale Internazionale d’Arte of Venice and the Michelangelo Prize (1963), Messina was born from a very poor family. He grew up in Genoa, where he also studied and lived until he moved to Milan.

Considered one of the most important figurative sculptors of the Italian Novecento, together with Giacomo Manzù, Arturo Martini and Marino Marini, Messina’s sculptures are displayed worldwide including the museums of Berne, Zurich, Gothenburg, Oslo, Munich, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Venice, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Vienna, Washington, 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 in Sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, of which he became the director within two years.

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 1949 he exhibited at the 3rd Sculpture International held by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, together with Marino Marini and Picasso.

In 1956 he participated with a personal exhibition at the XXVIII Biennale di Venezia and in 1963 he produced the great monument to 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 will became the Italian national TV logo, placed at the entrance of the RAI Building in Rome. In 1968, he sculpted the monument to 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 ca. eighty sculptures (gessos, polychrome terracottas, bronzes, waxes) and thirty graphic works (lithographies, pastels, acquarellos, pencil drawings) donated to the Comune di Milano.

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. 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.

Read More:
1. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesco_Messina


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