A broken chain and a magic fountain
San Marino and UN values depicted in two art pieces at the Palais des Nations
1 Feb 2024

At the Palais, if you walk towards building H, you cannot miss it. On your left you will see the sculpture ‘Nemini Teneri’, (Latin for ‘not to be held by anyone’) or ‘A broken chain’; a loud representation of the human desire to live without being ‘held’ by any bonds.

The work celebrates the effort of those who do all that they can to combat resignation and work to break even just one of many, small links in the excessive number of chains that still torment humanity of our time,” says Veronica Casali, the sculptor of ‘A broken chain’.

To confront these themes, Veronica says to “have used materials that were almost the exact opposites of each other such as the opaque, but also warm stone of Mount Titano and shiny steel”. Each medium recounts a different history, but they both speak of liberty.

“The image of the broken chain is very evocative in its simplicity: it serves as a symbol of constriction, of slavery, and of the denial of freedom.”

“The link in the chain that breaks is therefore not the weakest, but the most significant. For this reason, I wanted to highlight this with a finish that recalls flames, with a copper−red color at the breakage point. At the part made of torn steel, where master blacksmith Danilo Giovannini succeeded in creating the effect of an explosion within, I have imagined the concentration and the unification of the enormous strength of all those who have had the courage to react and who have embraced the other, the different, the foreigner as a brother and an indispensable travel companion with whom to face their futures together. The choice made by these women and men has never been easy, nor has it been without risk, and too many have paid the price with hardship, blood, and death.”

The sculpture therefore stands as not just a reminder of the countless and different modalities in which fundamental rights are still violated, but also as a celebration of the choices made by individuals and nations that have permitted us to “break the chain” and follow the desire to live a free and dignified life.

“It is exactly these values that represent the fundamental ideologies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which commemorated its 75th anniversary last year. These are the concepts that the Republic of San Marino, with its ancient traditions of liberty expressed in its motto ‘Nemini Teneri’, have always been inspired by,” describes Ambassador Beccari, Permanent Representative of the United Nations in Geneva when talking about the sculpture.

UNOG Director General and Minister Stafano Canti of San Marino unveiling the ‘Magic Fountain’ © UN archives

The second art piece donated by San Marino to the United Nations is a painting called “the Magic Fountain – The Warning, the Hope, the Dream” by artist, Gisella Battistini.

Gisella Battistini remarks: “painting this picture was not easy. It was difficult to describe, in the limited space of a canvas, the work that the United Nations carries out on a daily basis in human rights, peace, justice, the fight against hunger and poverty, health and well-being, climate change, culture and empowerment of women and girls. It was also difficult to describe one’s own country without using stereotyped or obvious images.”

“The Magic Fountain”, subtitled: “The Warning, the Hope, the Dream”, is full of symbols that relate to the Republic of San Marino. This use of symbology doesn’t immediately strike the eye of the viewer. We have to approach the canvas and start “reading” it…

“The old fountain represents our ancient Republic, from which the crystalline water will spread everywhere, while the sea creature that supports the flowers, that witnesses life underwater and has the profile of our Mount Titano, with its three characteristic peaks. Its backbone is reminiscent of the memory of the mountain ridge dear to San Marino citizens, once submerged by the sea”, explains Gisella.

She explains that: “the number three is part of our daily lives: the three mountains, the three towers, the three peaks which represents Mount Titano, and our coat of arms. This is why I chose to represent three girls of different ethnicities, a symbol of acceptance and brotherhood among people. And this is why there are three doves: symbols of peace and freedom and witnesses of life on earth.”

Also, UN symbology is present throughout the whole painting. For instance, there are 17 flowers like the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. A fairy-tale atmosphere, almost unreal, of peace and serenity pervades the whole painting. The three girls watch the water flow with dreamy eyes full of hope.“But one of them is looking at the observer with a warning,” says Gisella. “We are leaving young people a complicated and impoverished world, but, just like strong and tenacious flowers, it can be transformed into a garden.”

Gisella adds: “water is the leitmotif of the whole work. The survival of all ecosystems depends on it. A universal right of all, but not for all. Clean water must be an asset within the reach of everyone, being the most precious gift of our planet.” 

* Mollie Fraser-Andrews is Editorial Coordinator for UN Today.
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