“Humanity against Evil” – now at Rome’s National Gallery of Modern Art – was one of the first works by Ravenna-born sculptor Gaetano Cellini (1873-1937).
This allegoric, material expression of an ideal, is a perfect fit for Auguste Rodin’s quotation, “Art is the most sublime mission of mankind, since it is the expression of thought, which seeks to understand the world and to make it understood.”
Rodin was indubitably a source of inspiration for Cellini, who presented the plaster cast for this sculpture at the 1906 Milan Expo. On the base, he inscribed the title of the work and a couplet explaining its meaning: “Thus I’ll extirpate using my teeth and nails / the eternal pain that stings my heart”. He completed the actual marble sculpture in 1908.
Cellini was obviously inspired by Michelangelo as well – and the latter might have chosen a different caption for the muscular tension of man as he strives to free himself of evil.
Perhaps, he would have used one of his own verses: “Squarcia ’l vel tu, Signor, rompi quel muro / che con la sua durezza ne ritarda / il sol della tua luce, al mondo spenta!” (“Rend that veil, you, O Lord, break down that wall which with its hardness keeps delayed from us the sun of your light, extinguished in this world”).