Giacomo Manzù - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, April 16, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Overview


    Phillips is delighted to offer Property from a Private Japanese Collection, comprising eight figurative bronze sculptures by the French artists Antoine Bourdelle, Aristide Maillol, Auguste Rodin, and Italian artists Venanzo Crocetti, Emilio Greco, and Giacomo Manzù. Acquired from the Contemporary Sculpture Center, Japan the present works have resided in the same private collection for over forty years. 


    Rodin redefined monumental sculpture towards the end of the nineteenth century, creating a new sculptural language which inspired not only his contemporaries and students but the future generation alike. The forerunner to modern sculpture, Rodin was interested in exploring and capturing individual and very human characteristics in his mythological and allegorical subject matters. The anxiety about the human state and individual experience is poignantly apparent in Rodin’s Martyre (petit modèle) and Tête de la Muse tragique. Both contorted forms accentuate movement and dynamism.


    Rodin’s realism and expressivity in his subject matter were of particular importance as a key influence on Giacomo Manzù, who played an instrumental part in the development of Italian sculpture in the 1930s, as well as the rise and affirmation of the abstract group.  After the war, Manzù established himself as one of the greatest Italian sculptors of religious subjects but, similarly to his contemporary Emilio Greco, the carnal world attracted him as much as the spiritual one. Venanzo Crocetti was not far behind Manzù in progressing the future of sculpture, contributing with his own specific language, rooted in a strong tension between tradition and modernity. The poetic characterisations of Crocetti lie firstly in his intuition and formal development, the anti-rhetorical re-humanisation of animals and finally his great recovery of the clay technique: a significant return to the great Etruscan sculpture, which also strongly influenced Greco.


    The works of Aristide Maillol also reflect Rodin's undeniable influence. However, he soon began to abhor the despaired subjects and twisted figures, gradually moving toward a more refined, Classical form of sculpture.  Although Maillol only begun creating sculptures circa 1895, and they mostly included small clay statuettes, they quickly gained popularity among collectors, one of which was Rodin. Practicing during a time which celebrated Rodin’s realist approach, Maillol instead preferred to preserve and purify the classical sculptural traditions, rather than emphasise the emotional or psychological meaning. Nevertheless, Rodin attended Maillol’s first solo exhibition and reportedly said, ‘Maillol is the equal of the greatest sculptors. What is admirable in Maillol, what is, so to speak eternal, is the purity, the clarity, the limpidity of his workmanship and thought.’i


    Property from an Important Japanese Private Collection

  • At the start of his career, Antoine Bourdelle shared Rodin’s interest in infusing realism with mythical figures, while exploring individualistic expressionism. Between 1893 and 1908 he was a pupil and assistant at the studio of Rodin, who was a great admirer of Bourdelle’s innovative monumental sculpture. Héraklès archer, buste is the perfect example of the rough surfaces of Bourdelle's sculptures which were influenced by Rodin, and his use of flat, simplified forms which were drawn from archaic Greek and Roman antiquity. In 1908, Bourdelle left Rodin’s studio and began to teach. Amongst his pupils were Germaine Richier and Alberto Giacometti, whom he taught until his death in 1929.


    Offered alongside Alberto Giacometti’s Nu debout II, in our Evening Sale, the collection allows for an interesting art historical analysis of the relationship between master and student within the French group- Rodin taught Bourdelle who in turn taught Giacometti. Years after Rodin’s death, and after leaving Bourdelle’s studio, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Giacometti’s interest in Rodin rekindled. Homme qui marche, 1960 is Giacometti’s homage to Rodin’s Walking Man, 1907 and a dynamic metaphor for his artistic aspirations.
    Following the post-war period, inspired by Giacometti, artists like Henry Moore and Per Kirkeby continued to embrace the art form, creating sculptures full of rhythm and a profound understanding of the human state; characteristics that are so focal to Rodin’s oeuvre. These artists in turn influenced the new generation of sculptors like Tony Cragg. His work Loop offered as Lot 315 in this sale is a perfect example of how the artist implements Rodin’s emotional and psychological artistic vocabulary into his own work.

    'A hundred years ago art was based on copying the figure, until artists realised it’s much more interesting to understand why we look like that. Rodin realised the shape of the figure and the face is not just reliant on the bones and the tissue underneath the skin; it’s also psychological.' —Tony Cragg

    Lot 315, Tony Cragg, Loop, 2014

    Similarly to the aforementioned group, Cragg explores the relationship between tradition and modernity, experimenting with materials and the realisation of dramatic, original forms. Whether they were reinforcing his influence or responding against it, in their own way, each of these artists continued the legacy of Rodin in redefining the modern language for sculpture. 

    Conceived and executed between 1895 and 1979, the group celebrates the technique and merit of bronze lost wax casting, successfully re-examining the importance of posthumous casting and the preservation of artists’ legacy.


    The view some may associate with posthumous casts is conditioned by a specific historical ideology that dates to the nineteenth and twentieth century that prioritised ‘originality’ and ‘authenticity’. This is based on a misunderstanding of the process of creating a bronze sculpture, which entails the creation of a model that needs to be copied and cast, a process which the artist did not always oversee as closely as many imagine. Rodin was one of the first who took a forward-thinking approach to the ‘original’ and the value of multiples that would go on to inform many outstanding artists of the 20th century. These later casts should be viewed together with sculpture that was being made during the second half of the twentieth century to illustrate the enduring influence and relevance of Rodin’s approach not only to the human form but to the way we perceive art today.  As attitudes change, some artists, such as Giacometti, have recently seen an increase in prices for posthumous works, because as these artists remind us, what really counts is the mind, not the hand.


    Lost Wax Bronze Casting



    i Aristide Maillol, Sladmore Gallery, online

    • Provenance

      Contemporary Sculpture Center, Japan (acquired directly from the artist in 1983)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

Property from an Important Japanese Private Collection



incised with the artist's signature 'MANZU' on the base
51 x 39 x 44 cm (20 1/8 x 15 3/8 x 17 3/8 in.)
Executed in 1976, this work is unique and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Giulia Manzù.

Full Cataloguing

£6,000 - 8,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £8,190

Contact Specialist


Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+ 44 20 7318 4065



20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 16 April 2021