Untitled (#215)

Untitled (#215)
signed, numbered and dated 'Cindy Sherman 6/6 1989' (on the reverse of the frame)
color coupler print in artist's frame
82 1/8 x 59 1/8 in. (208.5 x 150.1 cm.)
Executed in 1989. This work is number six from an edition of six.
Metro Pictures, New York
A. C. Danto, Cindy Sherman: History Portraits, New York, 1991, p. 61, no. 14 (illustrated).
R. Krauss, Cindy Sherman 1975-1993, New York, 1993, p. 188 (illustrated).
Paris, Jeu de Paume; Bregenz, Kunsthaus Bregenz; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cindy Sherman, May 2006-September 2007, pp. 149 and 257 (illustrated, another example exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center and Dallas Museum of Art, Cindy Sherman, February 2012-June 2013, p. 180, pl. 129 (illustrated, another example exhibited).

Lot Essay

Reaching back in time, the History Portraits (1988-1990) are at once unpredictable, and yet perfectly consistent with Cindy Sherman's earlier work. Inspired by Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical portraiture, the History Portraits, like the Film Stills, recall images so familiar that one feels certain to have seen them before-and in some cases they have. Sherman's costumes and sets are deliberately rough and exagerated simulacra of cosmetic features and lavish fabrics which, so obviously abstracted, become universal conventions rather than the specific domains of old master subjects. In the same manner the artist paid particular attention to frames for the first time, simplifying ornate traditional old master frames to custom-made and painted featurless gold, silver or stained wood forms. Often pulled from various art-reference books, themselves reproductions, Sherman achieves a reproduction from reproductions thereby keeping herself an arms length from specificity.

Startling and strange, Sherman's uncanny History Portraits rob the old masters and their subjects of a certain power, by exposing the artifice and transparent fakeness of the worlds they believed to be solid, unshakeable, and real. Arthur Danto explains them as: "extremely comical, whereas the original would have been quite serious indeed, a serious effigy of a serious person who took herself or himself, and was taken by the artist, with suitable seriousness: having one's image made is a pretty serious business. But secondly, there is something really frightening about Sherman's portraits of portraits - as though they lay, like a rubber mask of some witch or werewolf, on the boarder line of horror and fun. It is as if one knows they are false and yet cannot help but be frightened of them, the way we are frightened of someone wearing a mask we know is also a mask." (A. Danto Past Masters and Post Moderns: Cindy Sherman's 'History Portraits, pg. 11)

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