The stylized clothing of this serene, seated cardinal creates a dramatic pyramidal form. An unbroken conical sweep, the cardinal's vestment or robe extends from his feet to his mask-like face. Covering his forehead, his headdress, known as a miter, functions as the "tip" of the pyramid. The folds in the vestment emphasize the bronze's weight and volume but also create tension and dynamism, enlivening the form. A tiny hand emerges from beneath the garments to remind us that there is a body beneath this powerful bronze cladding. But body and vestment form an indissoluble whole.
In the early 1930s, Giacomo Manzù visited Rome, where the sight of the Pope flanked by two cardinals in St Peter's Basilica struck him as a singularly timeless image. From the late 1930s to the late 1950s, the sculptor produced more than fifty cardinals--standing and seated, large and small, in bronze, alabastar, and marble. Over this long series, Manzù increasingly contained the cardinal figure in rigid compact forms that evoked funerary pyramids or pillars. With only one exception, the cardinals were all conceived without a model, their features invented entirely by the artist.