Constantin Brancusi - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Mr. & Mrs. Maurice Speiser, Philadelphia, acquired directly from the artist, 1921
    Mr. & Mrs. Malcolm C. Eisenberg, Philadelphia
    Private Collection, Bucharest

  • Exhibited

    New York, Brummer Gallery, Brâncuși, November 17 – December 15, 1926, later traveled to Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago, (January 4 – 18, 1927)
    Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Collects – 20th Century, October, 3 – November 7, 1963
    Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Constantin Brâncuși, 1876 – 1957: A Retrospective, September – November, 1969 later traveled to New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (November 1969–February 1970), Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago (March–April 1970)
    Bucharest, Muzeul Naţional de Artă, Constantin Brâncuși, June – August, 1970
    Den Haag, Netherlands, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Brâncuși, September – November 1970
    Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Constantin Brâncuși, 1876 - 1957, April 14 - August 21, 1995, later traveled to Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art (October 8 - December 31, 1995)

  • Literature

    Brâncuși, exh. cat., Brummer Gallery, New York, 1926, no. 1 (illustrated)
    M. M., "Constantin Brâncuși: A Summary of Many Conversations," The Arts, July 1923, p. 55 (illustration of the plaster)
    C. Giedion-Welcker, Constantin Brâncuși, G. Braziller, New York, 1958, pl. 15 (illustration of the plaster)
    S. Geist, "Brâncuși Catalogued," Arts Magazine, January 1964, p. 69
    A. Tacha Spear, "A Contribution to Brâncuși Chronology," The Art Bulletin, vol. XLVIII, no. 1, March 1966, no. 36, p. 53
    S. Geist, Brâncuși: A Study of the Sculpture, New York: Grossman Publishers, 1968, no. 47, p. 31 (illustrated)
    S. Geist, Constantin Brâncuși, 1876 – 1957: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1969, p. 33 (illustrated)
    S. Geist, Brâncuși, Den Haag, Netherlands, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, 1970, n. 3 (illustrated)
    Constantin Brâncuși, exh. cat., Muzeul Naţional de Artă, Bucarest, 1970, n. 18 (illustrated)
    W. Tucker, Early Modern Sculpture. Rodin, Degas, Matisse, Brâncuși, Picasso, Gonzales, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974, p. 112 (illustrated)
    S. Geist, Brâncuși, The Sculpture and Drawings, New York, 1975, p. 46 (illustrated)
    Brâncuși photographe, exh. cat, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1977, no. 59 (illustration of the plaster)
    S. Geist, Brâncuși: A Study of the Sculpture, New York, 1983, no. 38 (illustrated)
    P. Hulten, N. Dumitresco, A. Istrati, Brâncuși, Paris, 1986, no. 36, p. 279 (illustration of the plaster)
    R. Varia, Brâncuși, New York: Rizzoli, 1986, p. 102 (illustrated)
    B. Brezianu, Brâncuși en Roumanie, Bucharest : Editura All, 1998, pp. 110-127
    F. Teja Bach, Constantin Brâncuși, Metamorphosen Plasticher Form, Cologne, 1987 & 2004, no. 53e, p. 414 (illustrated)
    F. Teja Bach, M. Rowell, A. Temkin, Constantin Brâncuși, 1876 – 1957, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1996, n. 4, pp. 82-83 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “What is real is not the appearance, but the idea, the essence of things.” Constantin Brâncuși

    Romanian born sculptor Constantin Brâncuși is considered the forebearer of modern sculpture, and the present lot belongs to his first series of sculpture that explores the sleeping figure. The L’Enfant endormi, 1906-07, depicts the sleeping head of Brâncuși’s godchild, Alice Poiana, born in Paris in 1906. Daniel Poiana, Alice’s father and a painter, was a dear friend of the artist and kindly housed him when Brâncuși first arrived in Paris in 1904. The theme of the serenity of sleep would artistically engage the artist for nearly 20 years, and the present lot is a pivotal composition for Brâncuși, acting as a crucial starting point for his sculptural development of this motif.

    Upon his arrival to Paris in 1904, Brâncuși entered the Auguste Rodin studio and was greatly influenced by his formative time there. He chose to depart from the studio after a short time, however, in order to acquire his own expressive, sculptural style. Above all, Brâncuși strove to create sculptures that reveal the honest and also elegant essence of his forms, in this case that of Alice Poiana. Sidney Geist, the leading, American, Constantin Brâncuși scholar, has said of L’Enfant endormi, 1906-07 that, “perhaps we have overlooked the importance of Sleeping Child – it is, after all, such a small, pretty, fragmentary thing… At one level we may imagine that he is demonstrating that he can be as rough with an image as Rodin. But we may be sure that despite all his mutilations, this hastily modelled head creates a fragile vision of infancy at its most defenseless.”(Sidney Geist, 1977)

    The present lot portrays a petite, resting head, lying upon her check with eyes closed. The modeling of the face perfectly captures the plush, soft youthful skin of a small child. “The real subject here is sleep,” as explained by art historian Radu Varia, “Brancusi will forget from now on the superficial features which ‘do not say anything about life and death,’ as he used to put it. From now on, he will always be in the essence of things. The subject is sleep, and in sleep, as we know from the wisdom of the vedantas, we are in the depth of truth, away from all impressions.” (R. Varia, BRANCUSI
    ANOTHER LOOK AT A SMALL MASTERPIECE, 2015) The heavy head, rendered in bronze, rests peacefully as a fundamental oval form while the surface varies, both in tint and degrees of detail, from silvery tones to coppery reds, and from delicate modeling to rough barely articulated form. “The treatment of the face and hair shows Brancusi’s direct and vigorous modeling. The flattened surface of the right cheek and cutaway right lower jaw allow the piece to be placed either horizontally or slightly inclined, resting on the cutout portion. Brancusi photographed it in both positions in his studio.” (M. Rowell, Constantin Brancusi, exh. cat., Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris & Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1995, p. 82)

    The dark elemental form of the head rests upon a simple plaster base, reductive and pure in its geometry. The interrelationship of the head and the base is very important to the overall composition. The resting head assumes a subtle diagonal bias that is emphasized by the angularity of the pristine looking base. Although the head of the child appears dormant and inert, its slight angle of emergence from the base grants it a restrained energy. Its richly modeled mass seems to rise and break free from the white pool of stone beneath.

    The rugged and thick surfaces of the child’s head in this seminal work would find its resolution a few years later in one of the canonical themes of the sculptor’s career, Sleeping Muse of 1910, with variations executed in different sculptural materials. Here the head is attenuated and its human features more strikingly abstracted and streamlined. The residue of naturalism in the earlier bust of the sleeping child would be refined and distilled into the elongated geometry of the muse’s head, perfect and timeless in its form.

    Brâncuși’s sculptures strive for the impression of elegance, finding it only within the simplest of motifs and forms. As the artist’s explains, "Simplicity is not an end in art, but we usually arrive at simplicity as we approach the true sense of things." L’Enfant endormi, 1906-07 possesses a muteness of form, the head sleeping peacefully, eyes closes and lips pouted. The intimacy of this dense, monumental form can be perceived, despite its small scale and vulnerable subject. Revealing direct influence from Rodin and his mastery of the portrait bust, L’Enfant endormi, 1906-07, embodies what the artist has explained as the purity of, “realism: I pursue the inner, hidden reality, the very essence of objects in their own intrinsic fundamental nature; this is my only deep preoccupation."


L'Enfant endormi

4 7/8 x 5 3/4 x 5 3/4 in. (12.5 x 14.5 x 14.5 cm)
Incised with the artist's signature "C. Brâncuși" on the underside of the head. This work letter e from an edition of 6 (a-f) lifetime casts.
The original painted plaster model of this work is in the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris and another bronze cast is in The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

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Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm