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    Sale 2164

    Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale

    6 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 2

    Joan Miro (1893-1983)

    Maquette pour 'Personnage'

    Price Realised  

    Joan Miro (1893-1983)
    Maquette pour 'Personnage'
    inscribed 'Bleu' (on the leg); inscribed 'Rouge Jaune' (on the underside)
    painted synthetic resin
    Height: 10 5/8 in. (27.1 cm.)
    Executed in 1971; unique


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    The present work is Miró's unique preliminary maquette for Personnage, which is likewise unique, and was also executed in 1972 in painted synthetic resin, measuring more than eleven feet across (Miró and Chapel, no. 267; Kentucky Center Endowment Fund, Louisville; fig. 1). Robert Haligon, a specialist in epoxy casting, produced the sculptures in his studio in Périgny-sur-Yerres. Both this maquette and the monumental figure were based on the sculpture Femme, which was cast in a bronze edition of eight in 1949 (Miró and Chapel, no. 37).

    This personnage may be likened to Mère Ubu--Miró often delighted in depicting the grotesquely larger-than-life characters in Alfred Jarry's 1896 farcical play. The artist gave this title to a figure done in 1975 (Miró and Chapel, no. 333), which shares some of the features seen in the present sculpture. Whatever her identity, this personnage is certainly female. She wears emblazoned on her torso the typically Miróesque emblem of her sex. Her upper body is concave and womb-like. She carries her breasts on her back. She bestrides the space she occupies atop a pair of ponderous, elephantine legs, one of which is adorned with a sign for the female buttocks, incongruously appearing on the front of her body. With grossly outsize feet that anchor her to the earth, she is a monstrous but comical neolithic fertility goddess. Jacques Dupin has described her kind:

    "What are these figures that stand before us? Difficult to identify, despite their affirmation and because of their intensity... Neither men nor beasts, nor monsters nor intermediate creatures, but with something of all of these... Their aggressive presence is a blend of the grotesque and the incongruous, of predatory fascination and the artlessness of the primitive game The unfailing laughter of these creatures freezes before bursting out; it is in us, beyond us, that it tears the walls and the sky. We feel its commotion as it passes, its charge of dynamite in suspense and a sinking of the ground under its passage, a trembling in the air, a tumult of freshness" (in Miró as Sculptor, Barcelona, 1976, pp. 25-26).

    Although Miró had created surrealist painting-objects during the late 1920s and 1930s, it was not until a decade later, while he was living in Palma, Montroig and Barcelona during the Second World War, that he considered making free-standing sculptures. He wrote in his Working Notes, 1941-1942, "it is in sculpture that I will create a truly phantasmagoric world of living monsters; what I do in painting is more conventional" (in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 175). He began to create sculptures as a further development in the ceramic objects he was making in collaboration with Josep Artigas. The possibility of undertaking larger and more imposing sculptures became a reality when Miró's "big studio," about which the artist had dreamed for years, was finally built in 1956, in Palma. Dupin described this new dimension in Miró's art:

    "Miró had formed the desire to leave the laboratory behind, to go beyond easel painting for the sake of a new space, and more impersonal sites, less confined and protected than those of the studio. He dreamt of the street, public squares, gardens and cities. Just as he had always sought to transgress painting, he now sought to transgress his own work, to cross over the boundaries of walled galleries and museums. He wanted to address his work to anonymous crowds, to the unknown viewer... One starts off by modeling a figurine in clayand winds up erecting a city monument" (in Miró, Barcelona, 2004, pp. 361 and 367).

    Provenance

    Adrien Maeght, Paris.
    Phyllis Hattis Fine Arts, New York (acquired from the above, 1995).
    Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1995.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property From the Collection of Caral Gimbel Lebworth

    Caral Gimbel Lebworth's two great passions were equestrianism and the arts, both of which came to early fruition during her teenage years in the early 1930's. It was then that she began to ride competitively, an activity that she would continue for more than a decade and which would involve numerous international events and riding at Madison Square Garden. And it was also at that time, in 1930, that Caral dropped out of high school in order to move to Paris and study art. Caral gave up the brush and easel within a relatively short time, but her love of art was kindled. During her time in Paris, she had the chance to meet some of the great artists of the period including Pablo Picasso, fuelling a passion for art that would remain one of the defining character traits for the rest of her life and to which her collection is only a small part of the testimony.

    Caral was the daughter of Bernard and Alva Gimbel. Her illustrious father was Chairman of the Board and the driving force behind the growth of Gimbel Brothers, Inc., which included the famous department store of the same name. Under Bernard's stewardship, Gimbels evolved into the largest department store company in the world for much of the 20th Century, comprising both Gimbels and Saks Fifth Avenue. Under Bernard's leadership, Saks flourished after its acquisition by Gimbels, from only two branches to becoming the celebrated institution that it remains today. While Gimbels has not existed since 1986 as a department store, its fame is reflected in the fact that its rivalry with Macy's, immortalised in the movie Miracle on 34th Street, entered common parlance with the phrase, 'Would Macy's tell Gimbels?' (In a tribute to that older film, Gimbels was recently resuscitated fictitiously as the setting for the 2003 comedy Elf.) In Philadelphia, the company founded the longest-running Thanksgiving Parade in the United States, which continues albeit under different sponsorship, and was mentioned time and again in the popular series I Love Lucy. Looking at Caral Gimbel Lebworth's collection, it seems appropriate that Gimbels was also the site for the disposal of the art and antiques of legendary media mogul William Randolph Hearst.

    Caral was married first to Edward Lasker. In 1946, she married baseball star and Hall-of-Famer Hank Greenberg, with whom she had three children. They spent ten years in Cleveland, where Hank was part owner and General Manager of the Cleveland Indians. Following their divorce in 1959, Caral returned to New York, where she married Joseph Lebworth; Caral and Joe spent the next 46 years together where they enjoyed a life which was noted for their long list of friends and their unwavering support of the arts. Joe passed away in May 2008, four months before Caral's death.

    During her time in New York, Caral's patronage and philanthropy resulted in a string of eminent friends and guests from the art world from William Rubin to Andy Warhol, Leo Castelli to Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Her purchase of two paintings by Diego Rivera resulted in her visiting the artist's studio and having her portrait painted by him. She acquired works by a range of artists that included, but was far from limited to, Calder, Corot and Courbet, Matta, Miró and Matisse. Meanwhile, when she bought a home at Castellaras in the South of France in 1967, she began friendships with many of the artists who had homes in the vicinity, from Arman and Pierre Lesieur to Louis LeBroquy and his wife Anne Madden. However, her friendships were not limited to artists, curators and dealers: she also attended Elizabeth Taylor's 1957 wedding to Michael Todd in Acapulco.

    The quality of the works in Caral Gimbel Lebworth's collection are a tribute to both her passion for and knowledge of art. Giacometti's Buste de diego (stelle III) is fantastic example of the artist's distinctive sculptures, and is all the more important for being cast and exhibited during his lifetime. Meanwhile, Matisse's Nu à la serviette blanche is a fascinating picture that captures the artist at a moment of innovation and exploration, working towards the Fauvism that would imminently burst from his palette.


    Property From the Collection of Caral Gimbel Lebworth


    Literature

    E.F. Miró and P.O. Chapel, Joan Miró Sculptures: Catalogue raisonné 1928-1982, Paris, 2006, p. 254, no. 266 (illustrated in color).