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Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
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Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from a European Private Collection
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

Tête

Details
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Tête
limestone
Height: 20 1/8 in. (51 cm.)
Carved circa 1911-1912; unique
Provenance
Private collection, Paris.
Anon. sale, Maître E. Ader, Palais Galliera, Paris, 12 December 1962, lot 18.
Private collection, France.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above, 1964).
Sir Edward and Lady Hulton, London (acquired from the above, 20 October 1964).
Marlborough Gallery, London (acquired from the above, 1981).
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above, 1981 and until 2010).
Thomas Gibson Fine Art, Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2010.
Literature
A. Werner, Modigliani: The Sculptor, New York, 1962, pp. 54-55 (illustrated).
A. Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani: Dessins et sculptures, Milan, 1965, p. 25, no. XVIII (illustrated, pl. 77).
C. Csorba, Modigliani, Budapest, 1969 (illustrated, pl. 5).
A. Ceroni, I dipinti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, p. 106, no. XVIII (illustrated, p. 108).
J. Lanthemann, Modigliani: Catalogue raisonné, sa vie, son oeuvre complet, son art, Barcelona, 1970, p. 142, no. 621 (illustrated, p. 314; titled Tête d'homme and dated 1910-1911).
N.L. Rizzatti, Modigliani, Milan, 1980, p. 101.
J. Lassaigne, Tout Modigliani, Paris, 1982, p. 8.
V. Durbé, Modigliani, gli anni della scultura, Milan, 1984 (illustrated, pl. 21).
B. Schuster, Modigliani: A Study of His Sculpture, Jacksonville, 1986, pp. 45, 49-51 and 57, no. XXVII (illustrated, pp. 45, 49, 82 and 88; dated 1914-1915).
O. Patani, Amedeo Modigliani: Catalogo General, Sculture e Disegni, 1909-1914, Milan, 1992, p. 59, no. 20 (illustrated).
G. Belli, F. Fergonzi, A. del Puppo, eds., Modigliani: Sculptor, exh. cat., Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rovereto, 2010, pp. 35, 44, 65-66, 120, 164 and 210, no. XVIII (illustrated, p. 66, fig. 5; illustrated again, p. 121; with incorrect medium).
C. Parisot, Modigliani: Catalogue raisonné, Rome, 2012, p. 122, no. XVIII/XXX (illustrated, p. 123; details illustrated, p. 122; titled Tête d'homme).
F. Fergonzi, Filologia del 900: Modigliani Sironi Morandi Martini, Milan, 2013, pp. 48 and 66-67 (illustrated, p. 66, fig. 61).
Exhibited
Wuppertal, Kunst and Museumsverein; Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen; Frankfurter Kunstverein; Munich, Stadlische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; Dortmund, Museum am Ostwall; Karlsruhe, Badischer Kunstverein; Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum; Dallas, Museum of Fine Arts; Lunds, Konsthall; Stockholm, Moderna Museet; Helsinki, Amos Anderson Konstmuseum; Goteborge, Kunstmuseum and Kunsthaus Zürich, The Collection of Sir Edward and Lady Hulton, September 1964-January 1968, p. 14, no. 31.
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Modigliani et l'école de Paris, en collaboration avec le centre Pompidou et les collections suisses, June-November 2013, p. 34, no. 5 (illustrated in color, pp. 34-35).
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Post Lot Text
Of the twenty-six unique sculptures by Modigliani, sixteen can be found in public institutions, including The Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Lille Metropole Musée d'art moderne, d'art contemporain et d'art brut; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Tate Gallery, London; The Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge; The Princeton University Art Museum; The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. and The Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Sale Room Notice
Please note the additional literature:
F. Fergonzi, Filologia del 900: Modigliani Sironi Morandi Martini, Milan, 2013, pp. 48 and 66-67 (illustrated, p. 66, fig. 61).

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Lot Essay

Of the twenty-six unique sculptures by Modigliani, sixteen can be found in public institutions, including The Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Lille Metropole Musée d'art moderne, d'art contemporain et d'art brut; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Tate Gallery, London; The Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge; The Princeton University Art Museum; The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. and The Minneapolis Institute of Art.

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 comprised of a sequence of around twenty-five carved stone heads (and two caryatid figures) all created in Montparnasse in the years running up to the First World War. te, of circa 1911-1912, is one of the finest of the few remaining works from this great series to remain in private hands. A uniquely elegant and mesmeric, portrait-like visage, it is a sculpture with a powerful, meditative presence and an almost otherworldly sense of timeless calm. As the British artist Augustus John remarked after first encountering Modigliani’s sculpture 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’? (quoted in A. Werner, op. cit., 1962, p. XVIII).
Because Modigliani was later to be so acclaimed for his painting, it is sometimes overlooked that the artist saw himself primarily as a sculptor. He 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 Modigliani began a practice of making his own carved sculptures; learning, under Brancusi’s direction, to carve, first into wood, and subsequently into stone. By 1911, Modigliani had abandoned painting almost entirely and from then on, until around 1914, sculpture became almost his sole practice. Between 1911 and 1914, Modigliani produced almost all his known sculpture, very few paintings and a vast number of drawings and gouaches, all related either to sculpture or to sculptural projects. te is one of the series of predominantly either limestone or sandstone heads that Modigliani carved during this period. It was his intention that these figures 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.
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. Cardoso was one of many fellow sculptors then working, like Modigliani, at the Cité Falguière studios in Montparnasse. It was here, too, that Jacques Lipchitz recalled seeing Modigliani “working outdoors”, on these stone heads, so as to avoid his own small studio, which was too cramped and, with all the stone dust flying around, also too hazardous for the artist’s already fragile health. Modigliani had conceived all of his heads “as an ensemble”, Lipchitz remembered, and at the Salon d'Automne, he “arranged [them] in stepwise fashion like tubes of an organ to produce the special music he wanted” (Amedeo Modigliani, New York, 1952, n.p.). Around the same time, the English sculptor Jacob Epstein, then in Paris to work on the tomb of Oscar Wilde, also recalled that Modigliani had filled his small studio, with “nine or ten long heads and one figure.” “At night,” Epstein noted, 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” (Let There Be Sculpture, New York, 1940, pp. 38-39).
Epstein’s recollections point to an important aspect of Modigliani’s sculpture. Not only did Modigliani work strictly in series and conceive of his creations as, ultimately, a collective; he also seems to have both conceived of and revered these works as if they were sacred. For him, his sculptures were all component parts of a vast, 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 grandiose dreams of this great, future “temple” are thought, in concept at least, to have resembled Ivan Mestrovic’s Temple Dedicated to the Heroes of Kosovo shown at the Espozione Internazionale of Rome in 1911. Certainly, it was through sculpture that Modigliani was to most intensely pursue his ideas of an ideal, pure form of beauty. It was also, as his friend and fellow Italian in Paris, Gino Severini, insisted, these same developments towards a simplified pure form, made in his sculptural work, that were ultimately to inform and determine his unique, later style of painting with its thin, elongated necks and faces, elegant lines and hollowed-out, almond-shaped eyes” (The Life of the Painter, Princeton, New Jersey, 1995, p. 164).
te of circa 1911-1912 is a work that displays many of the unique and idiosyncratic motifs common to the finest of Modigliani’s stone heads. The frontal, hieratic position of the 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 te, as in all of Modigliani’s sculptural heads, each of these features has been seamlessly amalgamated and refined into a unique configuration. The resultant effect of this is to conjure a personal, 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.
At the basis of Modigliani’s sculptural vision was an innate concept of a sublime, timeless and all-encompassing beauty. This was a quality he had first divined from much of the Ancient Greek and Roman art he had encountered as a student in Rome and Florence. And, it was this, “truth in beauty”, he had written as a young man, that had laid the foundation for all his subsequent artistic endeavors. After his move to Paris, amongst the less archaic influences directing Modigliani’s hand in the creation of his sculpture was the then profound and widespread impact of African sculpture. Similarly admired, at this time, by artists like Picasso and Derain, for instance, the formal language of African sculpture encouraged a whole generation of artists in the early 1900s to seek out and define alternative forms of realism. Of particular influence upon Modigliani appears to have been that of Baule sculpture from the Ivory Coast and Fang masks from the Gabon.
Today debate continues to rage amongst art historians and other admirers of Modigliani’s stone heads about the range and degree of impact brought to bear by such wide-ranging influences as African, Cycladic, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Egyptian, Near-Eastern and Oriental art, upon these extraordinary rich, elegant and multifaceted sculptures. The only thing that is certain, is that Modigliani’s sculptural vision derived from no one, single source. It was a unique and elegant fusion of many influences, all of which Modigliani miraculously combined into a new style all of its own. Cleary manifested in a work such as te, it is a style that in one respect bestows Modigliani’s stone heads with the same, timeless sense of serenity and monumentality to be found in both archaic Mediterranean sculpture and figures of the Buddha from Angkor or Gandhara. At the same time, and despite its African-inspired simplicity, it also somehow maintains a unique and edgily idiosyncratic sense of individualism and personal identity.
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... 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… 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” (quoted in N. Alexandre, The Unknown Modigliani. Drawings from the Collection of Paul Alexandre, New York, 1993, pp. 64-65).
Another highly evocative aspect of sculptures such as te is the way in which it reveals 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 his desired medium. It was stone that essentially bestowed his work with its sense of monumentality, permanence and timelessness and stone that lent his figures their sacred, temple-like quality of reverence. As a result, Modigliani was always insistent about working in stone, even though, given his impoverished circumstances, it was often difficult to obtain.
The particular type of stone that Modigliani was most often able to acquire was a limestone that, because it derived from quarries in the Parisian suburbs, was known as “Pierre de Paris”. This was the stone then being used to construct many of the new buildings then going up all over Montparnasse. A comparatively soft but durable material, it allowed Modigliani to create a variety of effects. Its fine grain could either be chiseled to coarse effect or sanded into a smooth surface, and, as Kenneth Wayne has pointed out, “Modigliani liked to maintain traces of the artistic process in his art—brushstrokes and chisel marks—[in order] to create sensuality, tactility and allure” ( “Modigliani ‘Tête’”, op. cit., Christie’s, 2010).
Working in close contact with Brancusi, Modigliani was one of a new generation of artists at this time involved in a tendency that highly prized direct carving from the stone block in a way that emulated the directness and immediacy of approach found in African and other so-called “primitive” arts. This was, in part, a reaction against the tradition in sculpture then typified for Modigliani’s generation by Rodin’s, lumpy, contorted, hand-modeled and emotion-packed bronze sculptures. Lipchitz remembered, for example, that “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" (op. cit., 1952, n.p.).
Paul Alexandre also observed that Modigliani would often throw a stone away if a sculpture did not work out as he wanted. This too is a clear indication that Modigliani was not, like so many carvers of his generation, working with the material to intuitively find and release a figure believed to be already hidden inside the stone (à la Michelangelo). Rather, he was seeking to impose his idealized vision upon it. “Everything Dedo [Modigliani] did,” the artist’s friend 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” (quoted in P. Sichel, Modigliani: A Biography of Amedeo Modigliani, London, 1967, p. 183).

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