Jean (Hans) Arp (1887-1966)
Property from a Private American Collection
Jean (Hans) Arp (1887-1966)

Entité ailée

Jean (Hans) Arp (1887-1966)
Entité ailée
with raised monogram and numbered 'III/3' (on the underside)
bronze with golden brown patina
Height: 54 3/8 in. (138 cm.)
Conceived in 1961 and cast in 1970
Galerie Chalette (Madeleine Lejwa), New York (November 1971).
Dr. Ruth Leder Shapiro, New York (acquired from the above, 5 March 1973); Estate sale, Christie's, New York, 7 November 2001, lot 266.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owners.
E. Trier, intro., Jean Arp, Sculpture, His Last Ten Years, New York, 1968, p. 117, no. 252a (marble version illustrated, p. 116).
I. Jianou, Jean Arp, Paris, 1973, p. 79, no. 252a.
A. Hartog, ed., Jean Arp, Sculptures: A Critical Survey, Ostfildern, 2012, pp. 351-352, no. 252a (marble version illustrated, p. 351).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jean Arp: from the Collections of Mme Marguerite Arp and Arthur and Madeleine Lejwa, 1972, no. 18 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

After devoting himself almost exclusively to relief sculpture throughout his Dada and Surrealist years, Arp found himself by 1930 increasingly drawn to the expanded volumes of sculpture in the round. He later recalled, "Suddenly my need for interpretation vanished, and the body, the form, the supremely perfected work became everything to me" (quoted in Arp, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1958, p. 14). Transforming the flat, biomorphic shapes of his earlier reliefs into full-fledged sculptural creations, Arp arrived at a language of rounded, organic forms--at once human and vegetal--that would serve as the wellspring of his art for the remaining three decades of his career. In an act of continuous metamorphosis that echoes the generative processes of nature itself, Arp recast these elemental motifs over and over into integral new forms. Eduard Trier has written, "Each of Arp's sculptures contains the seed of its growth from birth. What one of them has attained in completeness or greater perfection it passes on to the next... All these transmutations, transitions, pupations are not definitives. The forms remain fluid. They move on the road of one meaning to another... This is his syntax and it has imprinted itself on our minds by its modified repetition and underlying permanence. At an early stage Arp tapped a source that continually reaffirms its inexhaustibility" (op. cit., pp. xii-xiv).

Conceived in the last decade of the artist's life, Entité ailée represents a culmination of this transformative process. The rhythmically undulating form, entirely smooth and unmarred by descriptive detail, appears to lift effortlessly from its pedestal. Anchored in a taut, rounded mass that evokes both the hips of a feminine torso and the bulb of a flowering plant, the sculpture tapers elegantly through the middle before swelling outward once again. The sensuous contours terminate at the top in two burgeoning buds that paraphrase the forms of a head and a raised shoulder or outstretched wing.

It was Arp's practice to title his sculptures only after they were complete: "Sometimes it will take months, even years to work out a new sculpture. I do not give up until enough of my life has flowed into its body," he explained. "Each of these bodies has a definite significance, but it is only when I feel there is nothing more to change that I decide what it is, and it is only then that I give it a name" (quoted in H. Read, Arp, London, 1968, p. 87). In the case of Entité ailée, the impression of incipient flight--of a vital, interior force that seems to propel mass upward--may have suggested to Arp the Assyrian "winged beings" that he had seen only the previous year on a trip to the Near East. Or he may have been reminded of Classical and Hellenistic sculpture, which had been a touchstone for his art ever since his second trip to Greece in 1955, and in particular of its plentiful winged Nikai (Victories). Trier has written, "He did not copy it, but he incorporated the classical into his arsenal of sculptural forms. He appropriated the essential. He saw that which was Arp in the Greek" (op. cit., p. xi).

Arp first modeled Entité ailée in 1961 in a small version (39 3/8 in./100 cm. high), which is known today in two stone examples (a white marble and a black granite), six bronzes (see Christie's, London, 28 March 1988, Lot 44), and a cement cast produced especially for the Jean Arp Gardens in Locarno. Later the same year, Arp produced a plaster enlargement of the sculpture, which is now housed in the Tate Gallery in London. A single marble was cut from this plaster and six bronzes cast from it (a numbered edition of three, including the present example, plus a trio of artist's proofs). After the smaller Entité ailée returned from an exhibition broken in two, Arp was inspired to create a pair of new sculptures from the upper and lower halves of the composition: Torse d'ange, 1963 and Regard nocturne, 1964 (Trier, nos. 287 and 315).

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