Robert Mapplethorpe - Photographs London Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples

  • Exhibited

    Naples, Fondazione Amelio, Terrae Motus, 6 July–31 December 1984
    Lausanne, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Fondation Edelman, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1991
    Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia, Lugano, Museo de Arte, Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, 26 May 2009–13 June 2010
    (each another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    G. C. Argan et al., Terrae Motus, exh. cat., Naples, Fondazione Amelia, 1984
    C. Mihetti, C.A. Riley, Mapplethorpe, exh. cat., Lausanne, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Fondation Edelman, 1991
    Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, exh. cat., Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia, 2009

  • Catalogue Essay

    Titles include: Dennis with thorns; Jack with Crown; Skull and Crossbones; Jill Chapman; Dennis with flowers

    Robert Mapplethorpe was among the artists commissioned for Lucio Amelio’s Terrae Motus project, which responded to the devastating aftermath of an earthquake in Naples on 23 November 1980. Robert’s emotional reaction to this natural disaster is conveyed in these five panels. Here, two black male nudes stand in for Renaissance angels. They draw the viewer’s eye inward, toward an unconventional image of a black Christ and a Mary Magdalene, who together frame a detail of a carved skull and knife from the façade of a church in Naples.

    While each panel can stand alone as an artwork, those donated to support the Terrae Motus project were intended to be displayed together. It is indeed remarkable that the five panels have remained together as one work for nearly thirty years and are presented only now for sale.

    “Though Mapplethorpe transcended his subjects, he also focused our attention on them. He played on the edge of sacrilege, forcing us to ask if a religious figure can be depicted as a black eroticized male. In its daring depiction of Christ, and even in its presentation, the Terrae Motus piece recalls The Seven Words, 1898, by F. Holland Day. But here, and in all his works, Mapplethorpe used a highly personal visual language, utterly different from that of earlier artists.”
    (J. Nelson, ‘Mapplethorpe’s search for Intense, Ordered Beauty’, Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, 2009, p. 52)

  • Artist Biography

    Robert Mapplethorpe

    American • 1946 - 1989

    After studying drawing, painting and sculpture at the Pratt Institute in the 1960s, Robert Mapplethorpe began experimenting with photography while living in the notorious Chelsea Hotel with Patti Smith. Beginning with Polaroids, he soon moved on to a Hasselblad medium-format camera, which he used to explore aspects of life often only seen behind closed doors.

    By the 1980s Mapplethorpe's focus was predominantly in the studio, shooting portraits, flowers and nudes. His depiction of the human form in formal compositions reflects his love of classical sculpture and his groundbreaking marriage of those aesthetics with often challenging subject matter. Mapplethorpe's style is present regardless of subject matter — from erotic nudes to self-portraits and flowers — as he ceaselessly strove for what he called "perfection of form."

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Terrae Motus

Pentaptych comprising five gelatin silver prints.
(i) and (v) 48.5 × 38.5 cm (19 1/8 × 15 1/8 in); (ii), (iii) and (iv) 38.5 × 38.5 cm (15 1/8 × 15 1/8 in)
Each signed, dated in ink by the photographer, titled, dated, numbered 2/10 in ink in an unidentified hand and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp on the reverse of the flush-mount.

£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £67,250


17 May 2012