Property from an Estate
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Sketch model for 'The Northampton Madonna'

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Sketch model for 'The Northampton Madonna'
signed 'MOORE' (on the back of the base)
bronze with green patina
Height: 6 1/8 in. (15.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1943 and cast in 1945
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York.
Jeffrey H. Loria & Co., Inc., New York.
Private collection, New York (acquired from the above, 1995).
By descent from the above to the late owner.
H. Read, Henry Moore: Sculptures and Drawings, New York, 1949, no. 70c (terracotta version illustrated).
W. Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London, 1960, p. 139.
J. Hedgecoe and H. Moore, Henry Moore, New York, 1968, pp. 159-160 (terracotta version illustrated, p. 162).
J. Russell, Henry Moore, London, 1976, p. 119.
D. Mitchinson, Henry Moore: Sculpture, London, 1981, p. 90, no. 160 (another cast illustrated, p. 91).
R. Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, New York, 1987, pp. 185-186.
D. Sylvester, ed., Henry Moore: Sculpture 1921-1948, London, 1988, p. 13, no. 224 (terracotta version illustrated, p. 138).

Lot Essay

Among Moore's earliest surviving works in carved stone is Mother and Child, 1922 (Lund Humphries, no. 3). This subject emerged as a central theme in his work, and indeed became, as he characterized it, "an obsession." Gail Belburd has written: "Moore continuously found new ways of exploring the theme so that the imagery could take on meaning beyond the aesthetics of its form. The development of the mother and child imagery reveals that Moore's involvement in this theme reaches beyond maternity to an inquiry into birth and creativity" (in Mother and Child: The Art of Henry Moore, exh. cat., Hofstra University Museum, Hempstead, New York, 1987, p. 37).

Moore had done more than twenty sculptures on the Mother and Child theme when he received his first wartime commission in 1943 to carve a Madonna and Child for the Church of St. Matthew in Northampton, England. The project required that Moore reflect upon the long tradition of western religious art, and to focus on the ways in which a Madonna and Child differs from a purely secular Mother and Child. The sculptor wrote while he was at work on the commission:

"The Madonna and Child should have an austerity and a nobility, and some touch of grandeur (even hieratic aloofness) which is missing in the everyday Mother and Child. Of the sketches and models I have done, the chosen one [the present sculpture] has I think a quiet dignity and gentleness. I have tried to give a sense of complete easiness and repose, as though the Madonna could stay in that position for ever (as being in stone, she will have to do). The Madonna is seated on a low bench, so that the angle formed between her nearly upright body and her legs is somewhat less than a right angle, and in this angle of her lap, safe and protected, sits the infant" (in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 267).

The universal and monumental aspect of this stone carving, completed in 1944 (Lund Humphries, no. 226), became the paradigm for many of Moore's Mother and Child sculptures of later years. The sculptor recalled an especially rewarding response to the Madonna and Child, from the wife of a close friend, whose son had suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be institutionalized in Northampton. "She told me that this was a terrible affair for her and her husband, and she used to go and see him once a week... And she said that always on those occasions, after visiting him, she would go and sit in the church in Northampton, in front of this Madonna and Child of mine, and said it gave her tremendous comfort and assurance, and helped her a lot. Now that is infinitely more satisfying to me than to hear some art critic say that it's a good piece of sculpture" (ibid., p. 269).

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