• 0—3 380 000 000 HKD
  • 19 3月 1988— 4 6月 2019




Exceedingly rare, Modigliani's elegant stone carvings are among the most coveted works of modern art.  While the majority these sculptures are in the collections of museums, the present work is the finest remaining in private hands.  Tête that has the power to enthrall those who enter its realm.  Created in the likeness of an ancient totem or deity, this magnificient carving was created in Modigliani's open-air studio at the Cité Falguière in Montparnasse.  At night the artist would illuminate these sculptures by candlelight, creating a sacred space for his goddesses of stone.   Those faced with the spectacle could not escape the power and allure of this beautiful figure.  "The stone heads affected me strangely," confessed Augustus John, the British artist who purchased the present sculpture directly from Modigliani. "For some days afterwards I found myself under the hallucination of meeting people in the street who might have posed for them… Can ‘Modi’ have discovered a new and secret aspect of ‘reality’?"  Even Modigliani was not immune to its transfixing effect.  Jacques Lipchitz remembered that "Modigliani, when under the influence of hashish, embraced these sculptures."  And Jacob Epstein, after visiting the studio one night when it was filled with nine or ten of these elongated heads, recalled that "when we had left him very late, he came running down the passage after us, calling us to come back like a frightened child" (quoted in Meryle Secrest, Modigliani, A Life, New York, 2011, p. 143). Such is the bewitching effect of Tête, a venerable idol of the avant-garde. Modigliani's work on Tête was a product of a devotional mania towards sculpture as an act of carving, or the liberation of form from a block of stone.  His passion for this process was witnessed by many of his fellow artists at this time.  The English painter Nina Hamnett observed that Modigliani "always regarded sculpture as his real métier, and it was probably only lack of money, the difficulty of obtaining material, and the amount of time required to complete a work in stone that made him return to painting during the last five years of his life" (in Alfred Werner, Modigliani the Sculptor, New York, 1962, p. XIX).  Jacob Epstein, too, described Modigliani's fanatical approach to this medium and explained that his process was integral to his desired result:  "Modigliani, like some others at the time, was very taken with the notion that sculpture was sick, that it had become very sick with Rodin and his influence.  There was too much modeling in clay, too much 'mud.'  The only way to save sculpture was to start carving again, direct carving in stone... the important thing was to give the carved stone the feeling of hardness, and that came from within the sculptor himself ... he worked furiously... without stopping to correct or ponder.  He worked, it seemed, entirely by instinct - which was however extremely fine and sensitive, perhaps owing much to his Italian inheritance and his love of the painting of the early Renaissance masters" (reprinted in op. cit., p. 130). Modigliani’s passionate avowal of direct carving is especially evident in the extraordinary richly varied surface texture of the present work; with passages alternating between an extremely fine, smooth finish to roughly hewn and chisel-marked. This expressive handling emphasized the creative process and the artist’s dedication to his newly developed aesthetic. The present sculpture was created in 1911-12 from a single block of limestone known as pierre d'Euville, a porous rock quarried in a small town in eastern France.   Modigliani scavenged the material from construction sites around Paris, carting it in a wheelbarrow back to the studios he shared with Constantin Brancusi, who instructed him in carving.  While Brancusi's influence on Modigliani can surely be detected in his smooth carving here, another important influence was the streamlined, puckered-lipped Guro maskes from the Ivory Coast.  Modigliani had seen many examples of these African ritualistic objects at the Musée du Trocadéro, and their impact was clearly recognizable upon visiting the artist's work space: "His studio at that time was a miserable hole within a courtyard where he worked," Lipchitz remembered. "It was then filled by nine or ten of those long heads which were suggested by African masks and one figure.  They were carved in stone. I can see him as if it were today, stooping over those heads of his, explaining to me that he had concieved all of them as an ensemble.  It seems to me that these heads were exhibited later the same year (1912) in the Salon d'Automne, arranged in step-wise fashion, like the tubes of an organ, to produce the special music he wanted" (quoted in ibid.). Modigliani's theatrical and poetic leanings with regard to his sculpture were reinforced by his acquaintance with the young Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, with whom he had an developed an intense relationship between 1910 through 1912.  During the spring of 1911, Akhmatova was inseparable from Modigliani and wrote that "you could hear the knock of his mallet in the deserted alley" of his Montparnasse studio as he liberated the figures from their stone.  While Tête bears the linear and elongated facial features that would define the paintings of his later years, the face that perhaps can be credited as a main inspiration for this sculpture is that of the young and striking Akhmatova.  With her unusual Slavic beauty and taste for the melancholic poetry, Akhmatova left a lasting impression.  "You are for me like a haunting memory," he wrote adoringly to her in 1911.  Following their tour of the Egyptian Antiquities department at the Louvre that spring, Modigliani painted a portrait of Akhmatova dressed in the garb of an Egyptian queen, as well as several other representations of her with distinctly Egyptian embellishments. Her distinctive sharp profile became a constant feature in his production of this era, particularly in his representations of the Greek "princesses at the Temple of Diana," known as the Caryatids.  The elegant Tête, with its elongated nose, densely piled sweep of hair and intensely regal bearing, is readily identifiable as an amalgam of these influences and the artist's adoration of this specific type of beauty. In his essay for the exhibition catalogue, Modigliani, Sculptor, Kenneth Wayne has written about the influence of antiquity on Modigliani's extraordinary sculptures: "Modigliani's sculptures share many characteristics with the Egyptian art that he loved so much and visited regularly at the Louvre.  A quiet solemnity, a profound air of mystery and spirituality, blocky forms, blank almond-shaped eyes, a beatific smile, an imposing frontality and forward stare, and decorative elements in the hair and forehead.  The blank eyes in Modigliani's sculpture also recall Greek and Roman sculptures as they have come down through time, with the painted elements worn off.  Even the rough, unfinished quality of some of Modigliani's sculptures gives them the look and feel of bruised ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculptures.  Modigliani's favorite material too, limestone, was the same used to make the Great Pyramid and Great Sphinx in Giza and some Egyptian and Greek sculpture" (K. Wayne, "Modigliani, Modern Sculpture and the Influence of Antiquity," op. cit., p. 76). Tête was exhibited at the Salon d'Automne of 1912 in the famous Salle des Cubistes, a landmark exhibition in the history of modern art. The photograph of the Salle des Cubistes published in L'Illustration of October 12, 1912 shows the present work taking the dominant position on the far left, in the semi-circular arrangement described by Lipchitz.  Modigliani's sculptures were on view alonside Cubist works by the pioneers of modernism including Léger and Kupka, and offered a sensual alternative to the more severe, geometricized works of his contemporaries.   Following the exhibition, the present sculpture was acquired by Augustus John, the celebrated British artist who met Modigliani in Paris in 1912.  In his memoirs John recalled the experience of first seeing this sculpture among its companion works in the artist's studio, where they had a lingering, transfixing impact on his consciousness: "D. [Dorelia McNeill] and I visited his studio in Montparnasse one day, and bought a couple of the stone heads he was making at the time. The floor was covered with them, all much alike and prodigiously long and narrow. Returning with us to Montparnasse after this transaction, “Modi” exclaimed, ‘Ah, comme c’est chic d’être dans le progrès!’ and pressed into my hands his well-thumbed copy of Les Chants de Maldoror. This was his bible" (Augustus John, Chiaroscuro, London, 1954, p. 96). John prominently displayed the work first at Alderney and secondly at his final home, Fryern Court. The sculpture was subsequently sold in 1955 to Dudley Tooth and thence through the Hanover Gallery to a private collector in Europe. As Erica Brausen noted in a letter to the purchaser  "In fact after Sir Augustus you are the only private collector to own it" (letter of 9th July 1956 from E. Brausen, Director of the Hanover Gallery, London).   Today, the present work is perhaps the finest stone carvings to remain in private hands.  With approximately two dozen known in existence, the vast majority are in prominent museums, including the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; Tate Gallery, London; Kunsthalle, Karlsuhe, Germany; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Le Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Musée d'Art Moderne Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d'Ascq.

  • USA
  • 2014-11-05

Tête de femme

Picasso’s dynamic, three-dimensional Tête de femme is among his most powerful interpretations of the human face and one of his strongest achievements in the medium of sculpture. This larger-than-life bust portrait conveys the model’s strength of character and imposing presence as a figure in Picasso’s life following the war. The model for the present work is the artist's lover and muse from this period, Françoise Gilot. Within the trajectory of Picasso's portraiture, Françoise's visage has come to signify a time of intense happiness for the artist. The two artists met in May 1943, while Picasso was still in his tumultuous relationship with Dora Maar, and it was not until 1946 that they settled in Cap d'Antibes in the south of France. The period that followed was marked by great personal fulfilment, during which Picasso was, probably more than at any other time, devoted to his family, including the couple's two children, Claude and Paloma. This happiness in private life spilled into the artist's work, resulting in a number of portraits of his muse and their children. With triumphant presence and exceptional confidence, Tête de femme conveys the sense of optimism characteristic of Picasso’s post-war oeuvre. Over the years Picasso's depictions of Françoise became increasingly stylized, often conveying a sense of fecundity and grace. Françoise's youthful spirit and her interest in art not only inspired Picasso, but also encouraged a new direction in his portraiture. The French photographer Brassaï met Françoise at Picasso's studio on the Rue des Grands-Augustins in December of 1943 and was instantly taken with the young artist: "Very young -- seventeen or eighteen years old -- passionate about painting, eager for advice, impatient to prove her talent... I was struck by the vitality of this girl, by her tenacity to triumph over obstacles. Her entire personality radiated an impression of freshness and restless vitality" (Brassaï, quoted in William Rubin, ed., Picasso and Portraiture, Representation and Transformation (exhibition catalogue), New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Paris, Grand Palais, 1996-97, p. 415). With Françoise by his side, Picasso gradually abandoned the high-keyed palette and distortive figuration that had dominated his wartime portraits of Dora Maar and embraced a more liberated approach. This sensibility imbues Tête de femme with elegance and clarity. The figure here adopts an almost formal pose, looking straight at the viewer.  As Frank Elgar pointed out: "The portraits of Françoise Gilot have a Madonna-like appearance, in contrast to the tormented figures he was painting a few years earlier" (Frank Elgar, Picasso, New York, 1972, p. 123). Her arresting gaze forms the focal point of the sculpture, engaging the viewer in an unavoidable dialogue. The present work was executed in Vallauris, a coastal extension of Antibes in southeastern France where Picasso lived from 1948-1955. Picasso’s Vallauris period was undoubtedly the most productive sculptural period within his oeuvre. From his legendary collages made with chair caning and newspaper to his sculpture of a bull's head made from a bicycle seat, Picasso's most ingenious works of art were often created from objects that he found in daily life. By the 1950s, he had taken this process a step further – assembling objects that he found in the environs of his home and casting them in plaster, and then casting the completed sculpture in bronze to unify the piece with a homogeneous medium. Picasso often made preliminary sketches of these works, which detail how he would implement the miscellaneous objects within the body of the composition. While working in his studio of Le Fournas in Vallauris between 1950-53, the artist executed a considerable number of these sculptures in the forms of goats, birds and other animals, creating a veritable menagerie from objets trouvés. Commenting once to his wife Françoise Gilot on this production, Picasso explained, "My sculptures are plastic metaphors. It's the same principle as in painting. I've said that a painting shouldn't be trompe l'oeil…but…trompe l'esprit. I'm out to fool the mind rather than the eye.  And that goes for sculpture too" (quoted in Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1966). Tête de femme exemplifies Picasso's intentions to challenge the mind's perception of the visual. Tête de femme was cast in an edition of two at the Valsuani foundry; one unnumbered cast and no. 2/2. There is also an original in plaster and fired clay which measures 51 cm in height. Numbered 2/2 and stamped with the foundry mark C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE 

  • USA
  • 2016-11-15

Port de Cette, Les Tartanes

Painted in 1892, Port de Cette, Les Tartanes was executed at the height of van Ryssleberghes artistic production and is one of his acknowledged masterpieces. The artists mastery of the pointilliste technique is fully evident in this visually dazzling work, and is further enhanced by his original painted frame. From the late 1880s to the end of the 1890s van Rysselberghe developed a distinct form of Neo-Impressionism, based on the style of the French painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, yet with a distinct leaning toward the Symbolist sensibilities of the leading Belgian artists of the day. Portraits, exquisitely rendered in dappling colors applied in small dots of paint, were the most prominent part of his output until 1890 when landscapes came to the fore.  Van Rysselberghe was a founding member of the Brussels-based Neo-Impressionist group known as Les XX (sometimes written Les Vingt). The group was founded by van Rysselberghe along with Emile Verhaeren and Octave Maus in 1883, and was named after its twenty members. Van Rysselberghe played an important role in organizing the groups annual exhibitions and was considered by many to be its leading artist. His extensive connections with other painters and writers enabled him to exhibit widely and travel extensively himself. Van Rysselberghe completed a number of oils of maritime subjects in the years around 1890, many drawing inspiration from the river Scheldt near his native Antwerp and others from excursions further afield. These paintings included a portrait of his friend and fellow painter Paul Signac at the helm of his sailing boat. The two men shared many common interests, not least sailing and painting, and their relationship provided the most substantial connection between the Sociéte des Artistes Indépendants based in Paris and the Belgian group Les XX  to which Signac was elected in 1891. Allied by their friendship and artistic ambitions, they each nonetheless cultivated their own Neo-Impressionist style, with van Rysselberghe particularly interested in imbuing his compositions with a rich sense of atmosphere. In March of 1892, van Rysselberghe boarded Signac's boat the Olympia. Writing about this particular excursion, van Rysselberghe declared "I leave tomorrow for the south coast - with Pierre Olin - He will leave me in Bordeaux and Signac will join me. And then: the Canal du Midi: Montauban, Carcassonne, Toulouse etc, then Sète, Marseille, Toulon and off to sea! Ah, it's going to be really topping! (quoted in Théo van Rysselberghe (exhibition catalogue), Op. cit, 2006, p. 135). Port de Cette, Les Tartanes was one of the products of this adventurous voyage. Writing about the skill and impact of this work, Marina Ferretti Bocquillon opines "This seascape [the present work], begun by van Rysselberghe with Signac at his side, splendidly demonstrates his artistic audacity. During the early years of Neo-Impressionism the Belgian would produce a series of canvases, veritable blueprints for landscapes, characterized by an almost abstract sense of composition, rhythm and colour, which in this writer's view are among his best works. Far from being a mere diversion from his portrait work, his seascapes show a freedom from nature absent from works where he is intent on conveying aspects of a personality. The rigour of Neo-Impressionist principles obliging the artist to discipline an innate facility and brio, he here gave the best of himself, expressing an uncommonly refined and subtle modernism" (ibid., p. 135). Port de Cette, Les Tartanes depicts numerous boats in the harbor of Cette (since 1928, known as Sète), situated along the Mediterranean coastline of France at the opening of the Canal du Midi. Known as the 'Venice of Languedoc,' Sète's position as one of the hubs of the Bassin de Thau, with its associated shellfish cultivation, in addition to is proximity to the inland canals and the sea, have long made it a center of trade as well as a popular destination for visitors. The tartanes referenced in the title of the present work were small ships used for trade and fishing along the Mediterranean coast. Of relatively simple design and featuring just one mast, tartanes were ubiquitous for centuries, though by the time van Rysselberghe painted the Port de Cette, Les Tartanes they were soon to be supplanted by other vessels. In 1893 the present work was featured in the final exhibition of Les XX held in Brussels at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. This was the first show to introduce divisionism or pointillism to a northern European audience. Many of van Rysselberghes best works were then shown at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris later in the year, marking the first of many international exhibitions to include Port de Cette, Les Tartanes. In 1899 van Rysselberghe was invited to participate in the third exhibition held in the Secession building in Vienna. Van Rysselberghe was also accorded the honor of having an article written about his work by Verhaeren which was published in the chronicle of the Vienna Secession Ver Sacrum. To have been so chosen by Viennas leading artists was indicative of van Rysselberghes rapidly growing international reputation, as well as their sensitivity towards his particular approach to painting and depiction of atmosphere. The Austrian Secessionists, in particular Gustav Klimt and Carl Moll, were well aware of the pointillist techniques employed by van Rysselberghe and other Neo-Impressionists, and like van Rysselberghe, they were intrigued by the way in which applying paint in a pointillist manner could imbue their subjects with greater animation and atmosphere. Port de Cette, Les Tartanes has subsequently been included in several major individual exhibitions and Neo-Impressionist group-exhibitions and was at one time part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The present work has extraordinarily important early provenance and was acquired by John Hay Whitney by 1961. John Hay Whitney was a renowned American ambassador, publisher, philanthropist and art collector who was once the President of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Whitney donated the present work to the Museum in 1983, who later sold it to the present owner in 2005 to benefit their acquisitions fund.

  • USA
  • 2017-11-15

Parent I

‘She is very female obviously, she is voluptuous, if she isn’t carrying a child she has had about twenty…’ The Artist, 1972 Barbara Hepworth was one of the most ground-breaking and forward-thinking artists of her generation. She carved a path as a world recognised sculptor, a stature that no female artist had ever achieved. These accomplishments were recently celebrated with a major exhibition at Tate Britain in London in 2015. Parent 1 belongs to the magnificent group of nine sculptures produced in the last decade of her life collectively known as The Family of Man (originally named Figures, and sometimes referred to as Nine Figures on a Hill). The group of sculptures are undoubtedly the crowning achievement of her final years and take on an added dimension as they were each individually titled with subjects that were clearly of intimate importance within the context of Hepworth’s own life: Young Girl, Youth, Bride, Bridegroom, Parent I, Parent II, Ancestor I, Ancestor II, and Ultimate Form. The series of nine large-scale bronzes were intended to function as both single forms and as a group - four individual casts were produced of Parent I and it is significant that the other three casts are held in public collections (The Hepworth Wakefield; Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh and The Hawaii State Foundation). Two complete sets of The Family of Man were also produced (see fig 1), both currently on display to the public, one at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the other at the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden at PepsiCo, Purchase, New York.  The monumental standing form, Parent I, is one of the central figures of the group. Although abstract in form, its totemic composition of stacked irregular shaped lozenges is endowed with a human and spiritual quality – she explained in a statement in 1970: ‘I’m not exactly the sculpture in the landscape any more. I think of the works as objects which rise out of the land or the sea, mysteriously. You can’t make a sculpture without it being a thing – a creature, a figure, a fetish…. Any stone standing in the hills here is a figure, but you have to go further than that. What figure? And which countenance?... I like to dream of things rising from the ground  - it would be marvellous to walk in the woods and suddenly come across such things or to meet a reclining form’ (The Artist, quoted in Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, Lund Humphries, 1971, p.13). With nine monumental figures, the series thus becomes a universal survey of humanity, acknowledging both civilisations past and present and also humankind’s aspirations for the future. Hepworth wanted people to identify with these sculptures and considered them very much as a group of several generations, including the ancestor figures who ‘are right in my bones’. Like the family to which they allude, the form of each figure resembles one another through recurring motifs, but the composition of each form also becomes more complex, rising from two to four distinct components as they mature. The vocabulary of these sculptures are undoubtedly reminiscent of her early works and pierced carvings such as Pierced Form (1932, BH35) and Pierced Form (1931, destroyed) – Hepworth’s introduction of piercing greatly enriched the possibilities of abstract sculpture by abolishing the concept of a closed, and thus entire, form and brought the individual sculpture firmly into the environment within which it was placed. She spoke frankly about what she hoped to achieve: ‘I have always been interested in oval or ovoid shapes… the weight, poise, and curvature of the ovoid as a basic form. The carving and piercing of such a form seems to open up an infinite variety of continuous curves in the third dimension…’ (The Artist, ‘Approach to Sculpture’, The Studio, vol.132, no.643, October 1946). Although cast in bronze, the surface texture of Parent I appears hand finished and reflects the method Hepworth devised enabling her to both carve and cast: using an expanded metal armature (fig 2), she then covered this in large quantities of plaster which could then be carved back. Once cast, the intricately worked surface could be further enlivened with the application of a coloured patina creating dynamic contrasts between differing elements of each work. The monumental majesty of each figure recalls the influence of prehistoric menhirs and stone circles which had inspired her since she moved to Cornwall in 1939 (fig 3). As such, Parent I evokes a timeless, totemic quality in its solidity and curvilinear formation. Although harking back to prehistoric times, this epic work is also decidedly modern: the individual components are not layered facing forward, but at varying angles, making Parent I an almost semi-animate form, caught mid-movement, slowly turning as if responding to a call. Hepworth considered Parent I as the universal mother of the family and the female characteristics can be seen in the curves and softness of her forms when compared with the father figure, Parent II, with its imposing stature and in Hepworth’s own words ‘terrific spikey sturdiness’. Speaking about Parent I in 1972 she asserted: ‘she is very female obviously, she is voluptuous, if she isn’t carrying a child she has had about twenty’. Drawing on her own personal experiences as a parent, mother, sculptor and wife, Parent I unites all the artist’s principal concerns throughout her life, exploring old concerns anew and bringing a freshness and vitality rarely seen in the twilight of a career. Signed, numbered 2/4 and inscribed with Morris Singer foundry mark

  • GBR
  • 2016-11-23


From a monumental enthroned figure of the lion-headed goddess, wearing a striated tripartite wig, the inserted headdress missing, her powerfully carved face with stylized whiskers, the ruff simulating the overlapping petals of an open lotus flower, symbol of Upper Egypt. Sekhmet was the divine consort of Ptah, chief god of Memphis in Lower Egypt. She later came to be identified with the goddess Mut, who was similarly the consort of the chief god of Thebes, in Upper Egypt, Amun. The present statue probably once stood among over six hundred images of Sekhmet, goddess of war and protector of the king, which adorned the courts and passageways of the great temple Amenhotep III built in honor of the goddess Mut at Thebes and where some still stand in the ruins of that complex. Thus what Yoyotte describes as a "monumental litany of granite" was probably in part a result of the Theban desire to promote Amun as lord of all Egypt and chief of all gods. See Elizabeth Riefstahl, Thebes in the Time of Amenhotep III, Norman, Oklahoma, 1964, p. 62. William Hayes writes that "minor variations in style and proportions show that a number of different sculptors worked on the production of these statues, which though designed primarily as oft-repeated accents in a grandiose religio-architectural scheme, are in individual instances monuments of great beauty, dignity, and technical excellence." (William Hayes, The Scepter of Egypt, Part II, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1959, p. 239.) Cf. A.P. Kozloff, B.M. Bryan, and L.M. Berman, Egypt's Dazzling Sun, Amenhotep III and His World, Cleveland, 1992, no. 34 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), R. Fazzini, Images for Eternity, Egyptian Art from Berkeley and Brooklyn, Brooklyn, 1975, no. 56 (Berkeley), D. Wildung and G. Grimm, Götter, Pharaonen, Mainz, 1978, no. 31 (Cairo), and J. F. Romano, K. Parlasca, and J. M. Rogers, The Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art, Cairo, 1971, nos. 110 and 111; also compare Sotheby's, New York, May 30th, 1986, no. 63, and December 14th, 1994, no. 30. See Kozloff, Bryan, and Berman op. cit., Chapter VII, pp. 215-236, "Royal and Divine Images in Animal Form," for a recent discussion of these representations. The authors note "It is important to realize that the New Kingdom Egyptians did not worship animals, but rather personifications of the power associated with them. Quite often gods exhibited threatening aspects requiring apeasement to encourage the benevolent divine nature. A lion is dangerous particularly when hungry or enraged, but also protects its family. The domesticated cat, identified with a number of goddesses, was seen as the propitiated fireside form of the prowling desert lioness."

  • USA
  • 2013-12-12