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    Sale 2044

    Prints and Multiples

    28 - 29 October 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 224

    EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)

    Madonna (Schiefler 33; Woll 39)

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    EDVARD MUNCH (1863-1944)
    Madonna (Schiefler 33; Woll 39)
    lithograph with woodcut in black, rust red, blue and pale grey-green, 1895-1902, on tissue-thin Japon, a superb, strongly printed impression, the colors rich, Woll's fourth state (of seven) before the additional strands of hair across the torso, signed in pencil, with wide margins, deckle along the upper and right sheet edges, the lower and left sheet edges trimmed at time of printing, in excellent condition, framed
    L. 21 7/8 x 13¾ in. (556 x 349 mm.)
    S. 25¾ x 17¾ in. (654 x 451 mm.)


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    Liebendes Weib, or Loving Woman as Munch titled her, is recognized as one of the artist's most mysterious and important images. Depicted in the act of conception, but set against a mystic swirling sea of translucent color and crowned with a luminous halo, Munch's Madonna encapsulates his fascination with the connections between life and death, desire and fear, holiness and carnality. Contemporary audiences were scandalized that the Madonna was presented both as a hallowed icon and as a terrestrial femme fatale in all her lusty glory. The viewer in fact takes the place of her lover at the moment when she conceives, and in some versions she is surrounded by a border of spermatozoa and a strangely contorted fetus. Munch's interest however was not in the biological act of conception itself but rather in the spiritual appearance of death at the same moment as life is brought forth.

    In addition to its pictorial complexity, Munch's Madonna is also a technical achievement of the highest order. Originally conceived as a pure lithograph in black only, Munch experimented with color, first adding a red lithographic stone for the halo, then printing the blue background from a piece of cloth supported on a woodblock, and finally adding a greenish lithographic tone for the bare torso. These various techniques, printed on a large, very fine sheet of Japanese paper in this impression, combine to form a remarkably rich and striking image.