And once there was jubilation

Peace! Peace! Giacomo Manzu's sculpture presents the outburst of ecstatic joy on first hearing of the cessation of war. To speak of the heart of a hollow bronze may seem far fetched, but we must, for ''Peace'' is all heart. Emotion, expressed by light, darts up and out, bouncing from one plane to another, culminating in that enraptured face. Sensing that shadows would contrast too sharply with highlights, the artist has allowed a soft luminescence to float irregularly to the surface. It shares in the happiness, takes part in the action. The entire statue seems to vibrate.

Such exuberance would be unusual anytime, anywhere; from Manzu it amazes. The great Italian sculptor is known for the grace and quiet stillness of his compositions. Always superbly crafted and displaying rare psychological comprehension, they seldom portray action actually taking place. Any movement is purposely past or potential. ''Peace'' is unique.

Although Manzu's figurations reflect discerning knowledge of the art of the past, their essence is unmistakably today's. Manzu deals with present realities. He says: ''I work for man, to remain man in the midst of man, to not forget him ever.'' It is doubtful Manzu has ever forgotten anything.

His studies of women are often of Inge, each different although recognizable. Manzu met her in Salzburg, Austria, when he was teaching at the International Summer Academy. She, a young ballerina from Munich, combined inner nobility and charm with a sense of mystery.

In the portrait shown here, Inge could almost be any woman, completely lost in thought. As always with Manzu, light plays an important role. A gentle radiance, besides producing chiaroscuro, rounds the head caressingly and isolates it in a portion of space.

Manzu's sculptures have a sweetness that modifies their severity - and a lyrical quality, very Italian, that lets him communicate sentiment without falling into the trap of sentimentality. Manzu's unbroken practice is to make only one cast of a piece, destroying what he judges not worthy of the initial concept or not as perfect as his capacity permits.

The importance of Manzu's work has long been recognized. Many of his architecture-linked creations are of world fame, such as the bronze doors for the Basilica of St. Peter's, Rome, the Cathedral of Salzburg, the Church of St. Laurence, Rotterdam, and the Italian building in Rockefeller Center, New York.

In Manzu's figures beauty is line, form, material, most especially the deep feelings permeating all. Inevitably, his art projects the anxieties of our age, but there is also hope and, at least once, in that glorious ''Peace,'' jubilation.


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