SAUL STEINBERG (1914-1999)
SAUL STEINBERG (1914-1999)
SAUL STEINBERG (1914-1999)
3 More
Ivan & Genevieve Reitman: A Life in Pictures
SAUL STEINBERG (1914-1999)

The Persian Table

SAUL STEINBERG (1914-1999)
The Persian Table
signed and dated 'STEINBERG 1981' (lower right); titled 'THE PERSIAN TABLE' (on the reverse)
watercolor, oil, gouache, colored pencil, graphite, wood, metal, paper collage and gold leaf on panel in Plexiglas box
31 ¼ x 42 ½ x 2 ¾ in. (79.4 x 108 x 7 cm.)
Executed in 1981.
Pace Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1987
I. Reitman, Legal Eagles, 1986 (video; featured).
New York, Pace Gallery, Saul Steinberg: Still Life and Architecture, April-May 1982, n.p. (illustrated).
New York, PaceWildenstein, Saul Steinberg: Drawing into Being, October 1999, p. 62 (illustrated).

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

The Persian Table by Saul Steinberg deftly combines drawing, watercolor, sculpture, and assemblage to stunning effect. Yet even with all these elements, it is a uniquely elegant object that offers insight into the rigorous and imaginative mind of the artist. Like a display of artifacts, The Persian Table is its own museum akin to Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Suitcase) (1938, Philadelphia Museum of Art) and Alexander Calder’s Calder’s Circus (1926-1931, Whitney Museum of American Artist, New York). The present work is therefore a continuation of the early twentieth-century avant-garde into the postmodern era, and, as a result, it pushes the boundaries of what art can be.

Perhaps best known for his legendary covers for The New Yorker, such as the famed View of the World from 9th Avenue (1976), Steinberg was also a multi-talented visual artist influenced by Dada, Surrealism, Cubism, and Pop Art. In 1933, Steinberg, who was of Jewish descent, fled the fascist regime in Romania for Milan, where he enrolled in architecture school. In 1941, he fled fascist Italy for the Dominican Republic. A year later, with a US visa in hand, he arrived in New York. He quickly became a celebrated artist in multiple media, as Ad Reinhardt did with his work in cartooning and painting.

Three years after the creation of The Persian Table, Artforum observed that Steinberg’s assemblages amount to the “creation from scratch of a world that resembles the real one…Pencils are carved and painted, a camera is a block of wood with a pushpin for a button and the screw top from a soda bottle for a knob” (S. Morgan, “Saul Steinberg: Waddington Custot Galleries,” Artforum, March 1984). This is apparent in The Persian Table, which is comprised of landscapes, purposefully naïve figure drawings, and found objects. It is as if we have stumbled upon someone’s private space, perhaps a childlike escape from the stresses of the world, or a workshop for some arcane project. Steinberg channels Geppetto in the universe, both fantastic and banal, that he builds.

Steinberg’s art has entered numerous prestigious public collections internationally and he has been celebrated around the world, with recent solo exhibitions at the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, Milan (2022), the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach (2022), and the Drawing Room, East Hampton, New York (2021). His centrality to postwar art continues to be recognized as more young artists adopt assemblage and sculpture. Steinberg always marched to the beat of his own drum, as exemplified by the present work, which was created in a decade dominated by conceptual photography on the one hand and neo-expressionist painting on the other. The Persian Table, like the un-swept floor mosaics of the Byzantines, offers both a slice of life and an uncanny vision of a surreal world. Though we may never know Steinberg’s intention here, we can nevertheless ponder it and reach our own conclusions.

More from 20th Century Evening Sale

View All
View All