• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2045

    Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

    6 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 56

    Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973)

    Arlequin à la clarinette

    Price Realised  


    Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973)
    Arlequin à la clarinette
    signed, numbered and marked with the artist's thumbprint 'J Lipchitz 1/7' (on the top of the base)
    bronze with brown and green patina
    Height: 28¼ in. (71.7 cm.)
    Conceived in 1919 and cast by 1959

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Pierre Levai has confirmed the authenticity of this sculpture.

    Writing in his memoirs, Jacques Lipchitz looked back on his cubist sculptures of the late 1910s: "it seems to me now that I was still looking for a personal vocabulary. I was still engaged in finding the grammar, the syntax of sculpture most congenial to me. Beginning in an academic tradition, my emphasis was obviously on subject matter composed traditionally. With my explorations of cubism I was, like the cubist painters before me, first attempting, by a concentration on the formal elements, to subordinate the subject to the plastic forms and then gradually to bring the center back together again. But, whereas the cubist painters had many precedents and prototypes in the paintings of Céanne, Seurat, and the other postimpressionists, I had virtually no sculptural models on which to build. I had to find my vocabulary by myself, and thus the process was long and painful" (in My Life in Sculpture, with H.H. Arnason, New York, 1972, p. 38).

    Conceived in 1919, Arlequin à la clarinette reflects Lipchitz's ultimate mastery of his "personal vocabulary" at the end of the great decade of Cubism. Commedia dell'Arte figures lifted from rococo painting and everyday musical instruments were favorite subjects among the cubists, and here Lipchitz has combined both motifs in the person of a sideshow entertainer dressed as harlequin and playing the clarinet, which had become the solo instrument of choice among jazz and ragtime musicians. Lipchitz was especially drawn to this idea, and created no fewer than fifteen versions in bronze and stone, as recorded in Alan Wilkinson's catalogue, during 1919-1920 (see lot __). Indeed, taking this subject alone, and the two versions included in this catalogue, one can trace the transition in Lipchitz's work from a complexly facetted, spiraling and asymmetrical stylization of cubist geometry (as seen here), to the more frontal, simplified and block-like forms present in the later versions of this subject (see lot ___), as the sculptor classicized his approach to cubist form in the early 1920s.

    Lipchitz initially modeled his cubist sculptures in plaster, and then worked in carved stone and bronze as he became able to afford these materials while working under contract with the dealer Léonce Rosenberg in 1916-1920. A.M. Hammacher has written:

    "During this time he also became aware of his relation as sculptor to his material. He learned not only modeling in clay but also stonecarving, and by engrossing himself in bronze casting he knew what was technically possible in that medium. His program of revitalizing sculpture included, among other things, carving the work himself as a protest against the tendency to let assistants model forms, a tendency that was enfeebling because sculpture no longer arose from meeting the resistance and character of wood and stone. And yet Lipchitz had the courage to stand by his own viewpoint with an outspoken preference for bronze... He had worked in wood and stone, but he employed assistants when Léonce Rosenberg improved his chances with a contract in 1916. After certain experiences he broke the contract four years later and bought himself free. In the meantime the dislocation of an arm caused him to limit the amount of carving he did himself. This was not the only reason, however; he was not the sort of sculptor who derives form from the stone or block of wood itself. His form assumed a shape that arose from tensions in his inner self. By preference, this self-realization he sought in the rich potentialities of bronzecasting, which he left only in part to others and which he knew so well that he conceived his work in terms of that technique. Thus the casting was not for him a translation by somebody else from hand-modeled clay, according to the practice of the nineteenth century. The clay model in his hands was directed entirely toward the consummation in metal" (in Jacques Lipchitz: His Sculpture, New York, Abrams, 1960, pp. 36 and 41).


    Carlebach Gallery, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the late owners, April 1959.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of Robert and Jean Shoenberg

    Christie's is honored to offer for sale paintings and works of art from the Collection of Robert and Jean Shoenberg.

    The Collection, comprising Contemporary Paintings and Sculpture, Prints, Jewelry and African and Oceanic Art, will be sold over the course of the Fall and Winter 2008 seasons. Furnishings and decorations selected from the Shoenberg home will be offered in an Interiors Sale in Spring 2009.

    The Shoenberg Family was integral in the philanthropic and cultural life of St. Louis for the better part of the 20th century. The generous contributions of the family and the Shoenberg Foundation are evidenced in the Contemporary Collection of the St. Louis Art Museum where Robert Shoenberg served on the board for many years.

    Entering the Shoenberg house on Westmoreland Place in St. Louis was to step back a half century. The décor, a glamorous design created in 1950 by the New York firm of McMillen Inc., was enhanced by its owners, finely attuned art collectors, who personalized the house during the ensuing years. With their extraordinary taste and eye for the best contemporary art being created at the time, they covered the walls with outstanding paintings by Rothko, Kelly and Lichtenstein, while upstairs prints mirrored the painting collection with works by Johns, Frankenthaler, Motherwell and Barnett Newman. In addition the Tribal Art collection, begun in the 1950s, belied an interest in the world beyond the Americas. The jewelry collection spoke to the history of the family, recording marriages and births, holidays and the bonds between the couple. The Collection as a whole represents a vanished time, a world of glamour and cultivation, but also a time of values and social responsibility, a different America.


    A.G. Wilkinson, Jacques Lipchitz: A Life in Sculpture, exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1989, p. 15 (another cast illustrated, p. 17).
    A.G. Wilkinson, The Sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz: A Catalogue Raisonné, The Paris Years 1910-1940, New York, 1996, vol. 1, p. 52, no. 90 (another cast illustrated).