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  • Provenance

    Holly Soloman Gallery, New York; Robert Miller Gallery, New York; Baudoin Lebon Gallery, Paris; Alison Jacques Gallery, London

  • Exhibited

    Robert Mapplethorpe 1970-1983, ICA, London, November 1983

  • Catalogue Essay

    This seminal and unique early work by Robert Mapplethorpe offers a critical insight into his complex image making process. An important transitional piece between his early collage and sculptural work, we find here Mapplethorpe creating a modern devotional image using the traditional triptych form featuring two shots from the same negative of his friend and muse Patti Smith as she flanks a purple tinted mirror in the centre panel.
    This penitential pose, along with Smith’s androgynous and dishabille appearance recalls the tortured self-portraits of Egon Schiele particularly his ‘Self-Portrait as Penitent.’ Mapplethorpe’s struggle to transcend his conflicted feelings about his own Catholicism is further emphasised by the use of the central purple mirror which suggest the traditional use of the colour symbolically during the season of Lent and Holy week where believers are expected to make acts of self-discipline and privation such as fasting, celibacy and for the more devout – flagellation. While one would expect to find in the central panel an image of the crucifixion as a means to contemplate Christ’s suffering for mankind, instead Mapplethorpe allows each viewer to enter his devotional by reflection itself – bathed in its lavender light and poetically underscoring God’s spiritual place in all of humankind.
    This work was created on the eve of Smith’s explosive burst on to the music scene the next year with her first groundbreaking Horses album (1975) and featured another now iconic portrait of her by Mapplethorpe on its cover. The first line of Horses features Smith’s clarion pronouncement that ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine’ – a chant that reverberates with the creative conflicts she shared with Mapplethorpe between religious tradition and artistic revolution.

  • 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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Patti Smith

Two toned gelatin silver prints and tinted mirror, set inside a custom frame. 
Each print 25.7 x 20.3 cm. (10 1/8 x 8 in); tinted mirror 27 x 21.3 cm. (10 5/8 x 8 3/8 in); 32.4 x 71.8 cm. (12 3/4 x 28 1/4 in) overall in frame.

Signed in ink on the reverse of the central backboard. This work is unique.

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £49,250


22 Nov 2008, 3pm