Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916)
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Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916)

Studio per Testa + casa + luce (La madre)

Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916)
Studio per Testa + casa + luce (La madre)
signed 'Boccioni' (lower right)
pen and ink on paper
8 1/2 x 5 1/4 in. (21.3 x 13.5 cm.)
Executed in 1912
Rodolfo Ruberl, Milan.
Anon. sale, Finarte, Milan, 27 November 2017, lot 19.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J.C. Taylor, The Graphic Work of Umberto Boccioni, New York, 1961, no. 228 (titled 'Study for "Materia"').
M. Drudi Gambillo & T. Fiori, Archivi del futurismo, vol. II, Rome, 1962, no. 260 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
G. Ballo, Boccioni. La vita e l' opera, Milan, 1964 (illustrated figs. 243 & 461; titled 'Studio per Volumi orizzontali').
A. Palazzeschi & G. Bruno, L'opera completa di Boccioni, Milan, 1969, no. 148b, p. 106 (illustrated p. 107).
M. Calvesi & E. Cohen, Boccioni, L'Opera Completa, Milan, 1983, no. 756, p. 422 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Boccioni's Materia: a Futurist Masterpiece, New York, 2004, p. 40 (illustrated fig. 33; titled 'Mother (La madre)').
M. Calvesi & A. Dambroso, Boccioni, Catalogo generale delle opere, Turin, 2016, no. 414, p. 152 & p. 338 (illustrated).
Reggio Calabria, Museo Nazionale, Omaggio a Boccioni, 1966, no. 45 (illustrated; titled 'La Madre').
Genoa, Palazzo dell' Accademia, Opere grafiche di Umberto Boccioni, 1968, no. 48.
Newcastle, Hatton Gallery, Futurismo 1909-1919. Exhibition of Italian Futurism (1909-1919), 1972, no. 52, p. 111 (titled 'Study for 'Horizontal Volumes' (The Mother)'; with incorrect dimensions); this exhibition later travelled to Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy.
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Boccioni a Milano, 1982 - 1983, no. 77, p. 329 (illustrated p. 246; titled 'La madre, studio per Volumi orizzontali'); this exhibition later travelled to Hannover, Kunstmuseum Hannover mit Sammlung Sprengel, 1983, no. 72; and Munich, Museum Villa Stuck, 1983.
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Sale room notice
Please note that the correct dimensions for this work are: 8 1/2 x 5 1/4 in. (21.3 x 13.5cm.)

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Mariolina Bassetti
Mariolina Bassetti

Lot Essay

Writing to his friend Vico Baer from Paris, Umberto Boccioni revealed the intense passion that was driving his art in a dramatic new direction in the spring of 1912: ‘In these days sculpture obsesses me. I think I have seen the way to a complete renovation of this mummified art’ (Boccioni, quoted in C. Tisdall & A. Bozzolla, Futurism, London, 1992, p. 73). Indeed, Boccioni was completely absorbed in the development of a Futurist style of sculpture during the period 1911-1912, as he sought to translate the dynamic sense of movement and modernity which had characterised his paintings up to this point into three-dimensional form. Dating from this intense period of creativity and experimentation, Studio per Testa + casa + luce (Le madre) is among the most developed pen and ink studies created by the artist for the lost plaster sculpture Testa + casa + luce, a monumental portrait of his mother which was destroyed along with most of Boccioni’s sculptural work at the end of a memorial exhibition held in Milan shortly after the artist’s death. Revealing the methodical preparation and formal analysis that underpinned Boccioni’s experiments in sculpture, this exquisite drawing captures the sheer energy and vitality of the artist, as his pen dances across the page, swiftly recording one of his most familiar models, his mother Cecilia Forlani Boccioni.

Boccioni’s mother was a frequent protagonist in his work, reappearing in drawings, paintings and sculptures across every stage of his career. From some of his earliest naturalistic portraits, through his Divisionist period, and on to dynamic sculptural works such as Antigrazioso (1912), her features proved to be an anchor for the artist’s most radical visual experimentations. In the present drawing, she sits before the artist, her hands clasped together in front of her, adopting a pose similar to those which had previously inspired the monumental paintings Costruzione orizzontale (1912) and Materia (1912). Exaggerating the proportions of her hands and upper body, Boccioni grants her a monumental presence in the drawing, allowing her form to fill the entire upper section of the page. Behind her, the outlines of an open window and iron balcony railing are briefly sketched in, their sharp, directional lines simultaneously framing the figure and locating her within the three-dimensional space of the artist’s studio. The presence of these architectural features, which would take on a particular prominence in the final sculpture, allow Boccioni to fuse his mother’s figure with the environment in which she sits, a concept of central importance to his Futurist experiments during this period.

The dynamic dissolution of the subject and structural analysis of the human body, meanwhile, highlight the important exchanges that were occurring between the French and Italian avant-gardes at this time. Indeed, the treatment of the sitter echoes the volumetric faceting of the cubist portraits Pablo Picasso created in Horta del Ebro during the summer of 1909, which Boccioni most likely saw at Daniel Kahnweiler’s gallery during his visit to Paris in October 1911. Intrigued by the visual dynamism of Picasso’s paintings, Boccioni sought to adapt certain aspects of the Cubist idiom to a Futurist aesthetic, marrying different elements of the two styles to create a thoroughly modern sculptural language. For example, while the Cubists showed objects or figures in a static fashion from multiple viewpoints, Boccioni expanded on this notion, placing his forms at the centre of an activated space and allowing multiple perspectives to merge simultaneously in his subject. In this way, Boccioni introduced a more dynamic treatment of volume to his studies of the human form, opening the Futurist language to exciting new realms of potential.

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