Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Tête 
Height 20 ⅛ in. (51 cm.)
Estimate $30,000,000-40,000,000
carved circa 1911-1912; unique

Amedeo Modigliani’s
Tête, 1911-1912

‘A new and secret aspect of reality’ (1):
Written by Robert Brown

‘What I am searching for is neither the real nor the unreal, but the subconscious, the mystery of what is instinctive in the human race.’

Amedeo Modigliani (2)

Alongside Picasso, Brancusi and Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani is rightly recognized as one of the pioneering masters of modern sculpture. Modigliani differs from these artists however, in that his reputation is founded almost solely upon a unique series of works, all made in a brief and concentrated burst of creativity between 1911 and 1914. This series comprises of a sequence of around twenty-five carved stone heads (and two caryatid figures) that Modigliani created in Montparnasse in the years running up to the First World War. Tête, of 1911-1912, is a particularly haunting example and one of the finest of the very few works from this great series to remain in private hands.

A mesmeric, portrait-like visage exhibiting several of the defining characteristics of this famous series, Tête is a sculpture with a strong, meditative presence and an almost otherworldly sense of timelessness and calm. As the British artist Augustus John was to remark, after first encountering such works in Modigliani’s studio, in 1913, these stone heads ‘affected me deeply. For some days afterwards I found myself under the hallucination of meeting people in the street who might have posed for them; and that without myself resorting to the Indian Herb. Can “Modi” have discovered a new and secret aspect of “reality”?’ (3)

Because Modigliani was later to be so acclaimed for his painting, it is sometimes overlooked that the artist saw himself primarily as a sculptor. Almost all accounts of Modigliani, by those who knew him, attest to this fact. His friend, the English painter Nina Hamnett, for example, wrote that, Modigliani ‘always regarded sculpture as his real métier, and it was probably only lack of money, the difficulty of obtaining material, and the amount of time required to complete a work in stone that made him return to painting during the last five years of his life.’ (4) Even after his re-engagement with oil painting, as another friend, Manual Ortiz de Zarate noted, Modigliani’s ‘real longing was to work in stone, a longing that remained with him throughout his life.’ (5) Sculpture was, therefore, as the dealer and art critic Adolphe Basler emphasized. Modigliani’s ‘only ideal and he put high hopes in it.’ (6)

Modigliani had longed to be a sculptor ever since his first discovery of Michelangelo in his youth. But, it was only after becoming close with Constantin Brancusi in Paris in 1909 that he began a practice of making his own carved sculptures, learning, under Brancusi’s direction, to carve, first into wood, and subsequently into stone. (7) By 1911, Modigliani had abandoned painting almost entirely and from then on until around 1914, sculpture became almost his sole practice. (8) Between 1911 and 1914, he produced very few paintings but a vast number of drawings and gouaches, all related to sculpture and sculptural projects, and almost all his known sculpture. Tête is one of the series of predominantly either limestone or sandstone heads that Modigliani carved repeatedly during this period. He intended these personages to be seen collectively as what he described as a ‘decorative ensemble’, and in 1912, seven of these works were presented in this manner as part of the Cubist room at the infamous Salon d’Automne held that year.

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Tête limestone. 20 18 in. (51 cm.) Carved circa 1911-1912; unique. Property from a European Private Collection
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Tête limestone. 20 1/8 in. (51 cm.) Carved circa 1911-1912; unique. Property from a European Private Collection

As Modigliani scholar, Kenneth Wayne has pointed out, echoing Augustus John’s thoughts, Modigliani’s heads, ‘are not based on visual reality, but on a new reality that the sculptor has created’. Therefore, while ‘it may seem odd to us today that Modigliani should be grouped with the Cubists in this exhibition—and in later shows and reviews during his lifetime - this fact is noteworthy. It underscores the point that Cubism was understood more broadly at the time than it is today. Cubism was a term used to describe any art that was unnaturalistic and took liberties in depicting its subject. The strong resonance with African sculpture seen in Cubist paintings—such as Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon of 1907—and in Modigliani's sculpture and painting may be another reason that he was considered to be a Cubist at the time.’ (9)

Before the Salon d’Automne exhibition, Modigliani is thought to have first exhibited his stone heads, again as a collective group, at an impromptu exhibition that he organized with Brancusi’s help in the studio of Amadeo de Souza Cardoso in March 1911.(10) Cardoso was one of many fellow sculptors then working, like Modigliani, at the Cité Falguière studios in Montparnasse. (11) It was here, too, at the Cité Falguière, that Jacques Lipchitz was to first come across Modigliani’s stone heads. Lipchitz recalled seeing Modigliani ‘working outdoors’, in order to avoid his own small studio, which was too cramped and, (with all the limestone dust flying around), also too hazardous for the artist’s already fragile health. Around Modigliani, ‘a few heads in stone—maybe five—were standing on the cement floor of the court in front of the studio. He was adjusting them one to the other. I see him as if it were today, stooping over those heads, while he explained to me that he had conceived all of them as an ensemble. It seems to me that these heads were exhibited later the same year in the Salon d'Automne, arranged in stepwise fashion like tubes of an organ to produce the special music he wanted.’ (12)

Around the same time, the English sculptor Jacob Epstein, then in Paris to work on the tomb of Oscar Wilde, also recalled a visit to Modigliani's studio in the Cité Falguière. On this occasion, Modigliani had filled his small studio, Epstein noted, with ‘nine or ten long heads and one figure’ and ‘at night,’ he ‘would place candles on the top of each one and the effect was that of a primitive temple. A legend of the quarter said that Modigliani, when under the influence of hashish, embraced these sculptures.’ (13)

At the basis of Modigliani’s sculptural vision was the articulation of an innate concept the artist had of a sublime, timeless and all-encompassing beauty. It was a quality that Modigliani had first divined in much of the Ancient Greek and Roman art he had first encountered as a student in Rome, Naples and Florence. And, it was this, ‘truth in beauty’, he had written as a young man, that was to lay the foundation for all his subsequent artistic endeavors. ‘I am trying to formulate with all possible lucidity the truths about art and life that I found scattered throughout Rome’s beauty. I shall try to reveal them and reconstruct their metaphysical structure—one might almost say architecture—and make thereof my truth in beauty, life and art.’ (14)

After the artist’s premature death in 1920, Modigliani’s friend and patron, Paul Alexandre, while looking back on the artist’s career as a whole, argued that Modigliani was someone who had ‘sought all his life for a definite form’ but never, in the end, he believed, ‘achieved it’.(15) It is in this sense of Modigliani’s dedicated pursuit after the, almost certainly unattainable, ideal of realizing a pure and transcendent form of beauty, that Epstein’s recollections of the artist’s shrine-like studio, with its beatific ‘temple’ of female figures, reveals one of the key elements of Modigliani’s sculpture.

Not only did Modigliani work strictly in series and conceive of his creations as, ultimately, a collective ensemble; he also seems to have recognized and revered them as if they were sacred totems. For him, his idealized figures were all component parts, (or building blocks, perhaps) of a vast and greater enterprise. Through his work in sculpture, Modigliani had, by all accounts, come to dream of creating, what he called a ‘Temple of Beauty’. The stone heads and the caryatids, (most of which he obsessively drafted and redrafted in drawings and gouaches rather than actually carved during this period), were intended to become, what Modigliani described as ‘columns of tenderness’ in this ‘Temple of Beauty’. Modigliani’s vision of this great, future ‘temple’, evidently conjured up by the artist as he lived and worked amongst his sculpture in his small Montparnasse studio, is thought, in concept at least, to have resembled Ivan Mestrovic’s Temple Dedicated to the Heroes of Kosovo. This was an elaborate monument comprising numerous stylized caryatids dedicated to the fourteenth century victory of the East Orthodox Serbian kingdom over Ottoman Turks that the Croatian artist Mestrovic had worked on in Montparnasse between 1907 and 1909. Individual caryatids for Mestrovic’s grandiose project had been exhibited at the 1909 Salon d’Automne and were later to cause a sensation when the collective ensemble was shown at the Espozione Internazionale of Rome in 1911. (16)

Modigliani’s dreams of creating his own ‘Temple of Beauty’ not only exemplify the scale of his ambition but also the fact that it was primarily through sculpture that the artist believed he could attain his ideal of a pure and transcendent form of beauty. It was also, as his friend and fellow Italian in Paris, Gino Severini, noted, the developments that Modigliani was to make in his sculpture towards this crystallization of a pure form, that were ultimately to inform and determine the path of his later painted portraits, with their thin, elongated necks and faces, elegant lines and hollowed-out, almond-shaped eyes. (17)

Thought to have been made some time between 1911 and 1912, Tête is a work that displays many of the unique and often idiosyncratic motifs common to the most fully resolved and finely rendered of Modigliani’s stone heads. The frontal, hieratic position of the figure’s head; the elongated face; curlicue, engraved hair; long, trapezoidal nose; smiling, v-shaped mouth; elongated ear-lobes and pointed chin are all distinguishing features, common to many of these pioneering works but not found altogether in any of them except here. In Tête, as in all of Modigliani’s sculptural heads, each of these individual features has been seamlessly amalgamated and refined into a startlingly unique configuration. The resultant effect of this is to conjure a personal and idiosyncratic sense of portraiture. Reflective of a myriad of different sources and influences all coming to bear upon the artist at this time, the origins of each of these surprisingly well-blended but disparate forms is also often quite specific. (18)

The protruding, triangular form of the smiling, upturned mouth of Tête, for example, can be seen to derive directly from archaic Greek Koré and Kouros figures that Modigliani would have seen as student in Florence and Rome. After his move to Paris, amongst the more significant but arguably less archaic influences that there came to direct Modigliani’s hand in the creation of his sculpture was also, of course, the profound impact of African art. Greatly admired, at this time, by artists like Picasso and Derain, for instance, the formal language of African sculpture encouraged a whole generation of young artists in the early 1900s to seek out and define new and alternative forms of realism. Modigliani, as Paul Alexandre remembered, was a frequent visitor at this time to the Ethnological museum at the Trocadéro, where, in addition to its African collection, he particularly admired the Khmer sculpture from Angkor Wat. Modigliani was also well-acquainted with the large collection of African masks owned by his friend and neighbor in Montparnasse, Frank Burty Haviland. He is known to have been especially influenced by the refined forms of Baule masks from the Ivory Coast, although, it should also be mentioned that the extremely elongated faces of some of his sculptural heads recall also the similar forms of Fang masks from Gabon.

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Tête limestone. 20 18 in. (51 cm.) Carved circa 1911-1912; unique. Property from a European Private Collection
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Tête limestone. 20 1/8 in. (51 cm.) Carved circa 1911-1912; unique. Property from a European Private Collection

Robert Goldwater has famously analyzed the impact of Baule masks on Modigliani in his 1967 book ‘Primitivism and Modern Art’. Modigliani followed the example of Baule masks, Goldwater wrote, ‘in the elongated oval of the head with narrow chin, the almond eyes, the sharply defined drawn-out rectilinear volume of the nose that, like the tiny lozenge shaped mouth, hardly interrupts the smoothly rounded curve of the cheeks and chin.’(19) Similarly, Goldwater observed, Modigliani’s repeated use of the ‘neck cylinder’ in these works is also African, even though, he noted, ‘its regional source is less easy to locate’ and that ‘these characteristics are more prominent and more isolated in some heads than in others’. (20) In addition, as he was keen to point out, such African influence does not occur in these sculptures alone. Archaic Greek art can be seen to ‘play a role in the treatment of the hair, and perhaps even more in the handling of the stone surface which, though smooth, remains unpolished – very different from the high patinations of African wood.’ Such is certainly the case here in Tête, which, like other heads such as (Ceroni XII, XV and XXII, for example) display both the pinched, v-shaped smile of the Greek Koré and an archaic Greek or perhaps even Etruscan styling in the depiction of its curled hair. (21) That Modigliani ‘singled out the Baule example to fuse with other archaic styles shows that he was being guided by a strong sense of personal creation’, Goldwater added. ‘Baule sculpture is the most refined and linear, the most aesthetic and the least daemonic of African work: it could be easily integrated with the other styles Modigliani assimilated, and with the graceful, sentimental direction of his own art, best seen in the paintings that follow the sculpture.’ (22)

In addition, Alan G Wilkinson has suggested that Modigliani may have been particularly attracted to the Baule style because it represented ‘secular portraits of living persons’ and, as Lipchitz has pointed out, Modigliani was an artist who, in spite of his search for a pure ideal, could ‘never forget his interest in people.’(23) The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, with whom Modigliani was especially close during these years, not only remembered the ‘deserted alley’ in Montparnasse that resounded to ‘the knock of his mallet’ as he worked on one of his sculptures there, but also the artist’s intense fascination at this time for Egyptian art. Modigliani reportedly told her during a visit to the Louvre’s collection of Egyptian antiquities that ‘tout le reste’ was of little interest in comparison. (24) Today, debates continue to rage between art historians and other admirers of Modigliani’s sculpture about the precise sources of the many varied influences—African, Cycladic, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Egyptian, Near-Eastern and Oriental—that all came to bear upon Modigliani’s sculpture during this dramatic period in Paris shortly before the war.

What is certain, is that Modigliani’s distinctive sculptural vision was derived from no one, single source. It was a unique and elegant fusion of many influences, all of which Modigliani combined into a new style all of its own. This idealized style, especially noticeable in a work such as Tête, is one in which his figures are not only bestowed with the same, timeless sense of serenity and monumentality to be found in archaic Mediterranean sculpture and figures of the Buddha from Angkor or Gandhara. It is also one that despite its African-influenced simplicity, somehow maintains a unique and edgy sense of personal idiosyncracy. Although Modigliani may have untended these works to form an ensemble, each of these imposing, hieratic-looking stone-heads clearly also asserts itself as a unique and distinct individual.

Paul Alexandre, explained this almost miraculous quality of Modigliani’s work well when he wrote that ‘Modigliani’s art is a re-creation’, but one which, ‘always stems from a direct view of nature. There is nothing, or virtually nothing, in his work that does not take as its point of departure an intense visual sensation. The resemblance is remarkable and immediate…His constant aim was to simplify while grasping essentials. Unlike most artists, he was interested in the inner being, and his portraits were real characters…All his life he was pursuing the same goal (as his drawings show). An idea that one might have thought dated from the end of his life can be seen in embryo in drawings executed ten years earlier. Modigliani personifies the pursuit of a single idea which has to attain a high degree of intensity in order to enter into the life of art. He never gave up the struggle to demonstrate this idea fully. In his drawings there is invention, simplification and purification of form. This was why African art appealed to him. Modigliani had reconstructed the lines of the human face his own way by fitting them into primitive patterns. He enjoyed any attempt to simplify line and was interested in it for his personal development.’(25)

Another highly evocative aspect of sculptures such as Tête is the way in which such works reveal Modigliani’s unique response to and manipulation of stone as a sculptural medium. Although Modigliani had begun his sculptural practice by carving works in wood (the majority of which are now lost), stone was always his desired medium. It was stone that essentially bestowed his work with its sense of monumentality, permanence and timelessness. And it was stone too that lent his figures their sacred, temple-like qualities of reverence and mystery. As a result, Modigliani was always insistent about working in stone, even though, given his often dire and impoverished circumstances, the material was difficult to obtain. (26) Charles Douglas has recalled in this respect that Modigliani, ‘like other sculptors of the Butte’ was, however, highly resourceful. He had ‘not neglected when funds permitted, to make friends over a bottle with the masons working on the new buildings rapidly devouring the maquis,’ and ‘with their aid…[to] secure a supply of stone.’(27)

The particular type of stone that Modigliani was able to acquire in this way was usually a limestone, sometimes known as ‘Pierre de Paris’ because it derived from quarries in the Parisian suburbs. (28) This was the stone then being used to construct many of the new buildings going up all over Montparnasse. A comparatively soft but durable stone, ‘Pierre de Paris’ allowed Modigliani to create a variety of effects. Its fine grain could either be chiseled to coarse effect or sanded into a smooth surface. As Kenneth Wayne has indicated: ‘In his art, Modigliani was clearly trying to distance himself from the slick, smooth painting and sculpture of the nineteenth-century academics, which many people felt had become stiff and sterile because of many rules and restrictions. Modigliani liked to maintain traces of the artistic process in his art—brushstrokes and chisel marks—to create sensuality, tactility and allure.’(29)

Working in close contact with Brancusi, Modigliani was one of a new generation of artists at this time involved in the tradition of direct carving from the stone block without the intermediary of a model or maquette. It was a practice that emulated the rawness and immediacy of approach used in African and other so-called ‘primitive’ arts and was, in part, a reaction against the outmoded tradition in sculpture then typified for Modigliani’s generation by Rodin’s, lumpy, contorted, hand-modeled and emotion-packed bronze figures. As Jacques Lipchitz remembered, ‘Modigliani, like some others at the time, was very taken with the notion that sculpture was sick, that it had become very sick with Rodin and his influence. There was too much modeling in clay, too much 'mud.' The only way to save sculpture was to begin carving again, direct carving in stone. We had many very heated discussions about this, for I did not for one moment believe that sculpture was sick, nor did I believe that direct carving was by itself a solution to anything. But Modigliani could not be budged; he held firmly to his deep conviction. He had been seeing a good deal of Brancusi, who lived nearby, and he had come under his influence. When we talked of different kinds of stone – hard and soft – Modigliani said that the stone itself made very little difference, the important thing was to give the carved stone the feeling of hardness, and that came from within the sculptor himself: regardless of what stone they use some sculptors make their work look soft, but others use even the softest stones and give their sculptures hardness. Indeed, his own sculpture shows how he used this idea.’(30)

Stone was, therefore, the medium that provided Modigliani with the means to pursue a specific end. ‘What I am searching for,’ Modigliani is said to have told Paul Alexandre, ‘is neither the real nor the unreal, but the subconscious, the mystery of what is instinctive in the human race.’ (31) Nowhere is this new, pure and idealized form of realism that Modigliani sought—and which he continued to strive after for the rest of his life—better realized than in his sculpture. Modigliani’s sculpture, and in particular, smooth-surfaced stone heads such as Tête, epitomize this perpetual search to refine and distill the human form into a beatific concentration of its essential qualities. Griselda Pollock has written of Modigliani’s work in this respect that, his ‘project echoes that of Matisse, where the distillation of movement, volume, and form into the sureness of a single line negotiates the tightrope between the decorative and the minimal...[Modigliani’s] patient repetitions and persistent search for a line [that] his hands and mind could internalize and confidently repeat, reveals that he was not working from the model, from life, from women’s bodies. He was working conceptually, from the museum of long and culturally diverse histories of art.’(32)

Paul Alexandre also observed that Modigliani would often throw a stone away if a sculpture was not working out as he wanted. (33) This observation is revealing because it distinguishes Modigliani’s approach from that of many other ‘direct carvers’ of his generation. It suggests that Modigliani was no ‘truth to materials’ artist and did not, like other ‘carvers’ of the time, work with the material in an intuitive manner, attempting to find and release a figure believed to be already hidden inside the stone (à la Michelangelo). Rather, Modigliani was always chasing a preconceived ideal and seeking to impose this ineffable vision upon the stone. It was for this reason that soft, more durable and easier to work stones such as limestone and sandstone lent themselves so well to his art. And also perhaps why it was in the works made in this material, that Modigliani came closest to realizing his unreachable ideal.

‘Everything Dedo [Modigliani] did’, Max Jacob wrote, ‘tended towards purity in art. His insupportable pride, his black ingratitude, his haughtiness, did not exclude familiarity. Yet, all that was nothing but a need for crystalline purity, a trueness to himself in life as in art. He was cutting, but as fragile as glass, so to say. And that was very characteristic of the period, which talked of nothing but purity in art and strove for nothing else. Dedo was to the last degree a purist.’(34)


(1) Augustus John, Chiaroscuro, quoted in A. Werner, Modigliani The Sculptor, London, 1962, p. XVIII
(2) Amedeo Modigliani quoted in Noel Alexandre The Unknown Modigliani. Drawings from the Collection of Paul Alexandre New York, 1993, p. 91
(3) Augustus John quoted in Ibid, p. XVIII
(4) Nina Hamnett quoted in Alfred Werner, Modigliani the Sculptor, New York, 1962, p. XIX.
(5) Ortiz de Zarate, quoted in Pierre Sichel Modigliani: A Biography of Amedeo Modigliani, London, 1967, p. 59
(6) Adolphe Basler quoted in A Werner, op cit., p. xix
(7) Alfred Werner has suggested that Modigliani turned to wood carving after beginning in stone, ‘probably to avoid the unpleasant physical effects he suffered from working in stone’. To obtain this wood, Modigliani is said to have stolen road ties from a nearby Métro station. Charles Douglas recalled seeing many of Modigliani’s wood sculptures (now lost) which were ‘exactly the dimensions of railway crossties’. See Alfred Werner Modigliani The Sculptor New York, 1962, p. XXVII, n. 5
(8) Opinions are divided as to when Modigliani stopped making sculpture. Many recall him sculpting up until 1914 and some until 1916. André Salmon even says Modigliani’s last sculpture was made in 1919 (but provides no reason or evidence for this) For a detailed analysis see Flavio Fergonzi. 'Preliminary Issues for Modigliani Sculptor’ in Modigliani Sculptor Rovereto, 2010, p. 28
(9) Kenneth Wayne, “Modigliani ‘Tête’” (Lot 24), Art Impressioniste et Moderne, Christie’s, Paris, June 14, 2010
(10) We cannot be certain that any sculptures were including in this exhibition. Four photographs of five Modigliani sculptures were found amongst Cardoso’s papers and published by Jeanne Modigliani in her biography of her father in 1958. The incomplete nature of some of these heads and the fact that one is shown in front of a drawing pinned to the wall behind it suggest that these photographs may not necessarily be exhibition photographs. Anna Ahmatova also recalled that Modigliani exhibited sculpture at the Salon des Indépendants in April 1911. A ‘caryatid’ and a ‘head’ are listed as works exhibited there by Modigliani but it is not clear if these were sculptures or drawings. For a precise account, see Flavio Fergonzi, ‘Preliminary Issues for Modigliani Sculptor’ in Modigliani Sculptor Rovereto, 2010, pp. 23-24
(11) The Cité Falguière was a group of artists' studios in Montparnasse where Modigliani lived from 1909 until around 1914. Montparnasse, despite its name, is very flat and therefore much more conducive to the production of sculpture than steep and hilly Montmartre, where Modigliani had lived previously. The Cité Falguière was named after the nineteenth-century sculptor Antoine Falguière and housed mostly sculptors, including Joseph Bernard, Léon Indenbaum, and Oscar Miestchaninoff.
(12) Jacques Lipchitz, Amedeo Modigliani, New York, 1952, n.p.
(13) Jacob Epstein, Let There Be Sculpture, New York, 1940, pp. 38-39
(14) Amedeo Modigliani, quoted in Modigliani: The Melancholy Angel, exh. cat., Musée Luxembourg, 2002, p. 22.
(15) Paul Alexandre quoted in Noel Alexandre The Unknown Modigliani. Drawings from the Collection of Paul Alexandre New York, 1993, p. 237
(16) See: Emily Braun, ‘Carnal Knowledge’ in Modigliani and his Models, exh. cat., London, 2006, pp. 51-2
(17) Gino Severini, The Life of the Painter, Princeton, New Jersey, 1995, p. 164. See also on this point, Flavio Fergonzi, ‘Modigliani: The Path from his Sculpture to Nu Couché’ in Amedeo Modigliani: Nu Couché, Christie’s. New York, 2015, pp. 83-104 and Robert Brown, ‘The Great Beauty” Modigliani and the Grand Tradition of the Female Nude’ in Amedeo Modigliani: Nu Couché op cit, pp. 9-56)
(18) Carl Einstein was the first critic to stress the importance of Modigliani’s sculpture in 1926 and to note its affinity with African sculpture. Since then, many detailed analyses of potential sources for the motifs and styling of Modigliani’s sculpture have been made by numerous scholars. See in particular, A Werner, Modigliani The Sculptor, New York, 1962, Alan G Wilkinson, ‘Paris and London, Modigliani, Lipchitz, Epstein and Gaudier-Breszka’ in Primitivism in 20th Century Art, exh cat, MoMA New York, 1984, B. Schuster, Modigliani: A Study of His Sculpture, Jacksonville, 1986, and Modigliani Sculptor Rovereto, 2010
(19) Robert Goldwater, Primitivism in Modern Art, New York, 1967, p. 236
(20) ibid
(21) In addition to Robert Goldwater’s observation of a possible archaic influence upon such features as the engraved nature of the hair and the pinched v-shaped lips in some of Modigliani’s stone heads, Alessandro Del Puppo has pointed to a specific relationship between the ‘corners turned in a stereotype smile’ in Tête and Greek-Cypriot-archaic art. In the catalogue he produced in conjunction with Gabriella Belli and Flavio Fergonzi for the 2010 exhibition Modigliani Sculptor Del Puppo visually reinforced this point by illustrating Tête alongside the marble head of the Rampin Horseman from the Louvre. (G Belli, F. Fergonzi, A Del Puppo, Modigliani Sculptor exh cat. Rovereto, 2010, p. 66) In their 1986 publication on Modigliani’s sculpture, Schuster and Pfannstiel also point to the ‘minutely executed wave and curl patterns’ of Tête and other of the more heavily worked and refined Modigliani sculptures as an indication that these works derive from perhaps a later date than 1911-12. (Bernard Schuster and Arthur S. Pfannstiel, Modigliani A Study of his Sculpture, Jacksonville, 1986, p. 45.) Flavio Fergonzi has also listed Tête as one of a group of Modigliani sculptures, (along with Ceroni nos. IX, XII, XVII and XXIII) that are in ‘a more advanced state of completion’ than others. (F Fergonzi in Modigliani Sculptor op. cit. p. 35) In a more recent article from 2013, Fergonzi has also pointed to the too precious nature of this aspect of Tête and has raised certain stylistic concerns that could cast doubts on its authenticity. Among those stylistic concerns, Fergonzi discusses ‘the extreme refinement of the frontal curls’ which he finds to be ‘too calligraphic a solution’ in conjunction with the ‘crudely chiseled’ nature of the ‘mass of hair adhering to the nape’ at the back of the figure’ (F. Fergonzi, Filologia del 900: Modigliani Sironi Morandi Martini, Milan, 2013, pp. 66-67).
(22) ibid
(23) Alan G Wilkinson, ‘Paris and London, Modigliani, Lipchitz, Epstein and Gaudier-Breszka’ in Primitivism in 20th Century Art, exh cat, MoMA New York, 1984, p. 420
(24) Anna Akhmatova ‘Amedeo Modigliani’ trans. Djemma Bider, Moscow, 1964, published in The New York Review of Books July 17, 1975
(25) Paul Alexandre quoted in Noel Alexandre The Unknown Modigliani, op cit, pp. 64-65
(26) In a letter to Paul Alexandre of 23 April, 1913, Modigliani wrote: ‘Fulfillment is on its way…I will do everything in marble,’ indicating a desire to create all his sculpture in marble. While on a visit home to Livorno, in 1913 he even went to the Cararra quarry where he reportedly acquired some marble blocks. Modigliani’s attempts at carving figures from this tougher and harder stone were to prove unsuccessful. Alexandre suggests that this may have been the reason he subsequently abandoned sculpture. It has also led to the unfounded legend, still popular today in Livorno, that Modigliani threw his failed sculptures into the river there, and where, perhaps they may one day be found. Others have argued that Modigliani was forced to abandon making sculpture on account of his failing health and the problems he suffered from breathing in the fine stone dust created while carving.
(27) Charles Douglas Artist Quarter: Reminiscences of Montmartre and Montparnasse in the First Two decades of the Twentieth Century, London, 1941, p. 85
(28) In 1911, major building work was still taking place in Montparnasse converting the area into a modern arrondissement. Major parts of the boulevard Raspail, for example, were still being completed as late as 1913. As Cathy Corbett has noted, ‘If Modigliani wanted to find discarded cuts of limestone or to ask favours of builders working on new stone facades, there was no better place than Montparnasse.’ Cathy Corbett, ‘Modigliani & the Salon d’Automne, 1912’ in Modigliani exh. cat London, 2017, p. 49. Alfred Werner records that ‘Once Modigliani, as was his habit, helped himself to a stone in a building lot one evening after the labourers had gone home. He worked on it for hours, then, leaving his sculpture half-finished, the statue had disappeared—it had somehow been incorporated into the building.’ Alfred Werner, Modigliani The Sculptor op cit, p. XXVII, n. 5
(29) Kenneth Wayne, “Modigliani ‘Tête’”, op cit, Christie’s, 2010
(30) Jacques Lipchitz, Amedeo Modigliani, New York, 1952, n.p.
(31) Amedeo Modigliani quoted in Noel Alexandre The Unknown Modigliani. Drawings from the Collection of Paul Alexandre New York, 1993, p. 91
(32) Griselda Pollock, “Modigliani and the Bodies of Art Carnality, Attentiveness and the Modernist a Struggle”, Modigliani Beyond the Myth, exh. cat. New York, 2004, p. 70
(33) Paul Alexandre, quoted in Noel Alexandre op cit, p. 65
(34) Max Jacob quoted in Pierre Sichel Modigliani: A Biography of Amedeo Modigliani, London, 1967, p. 183