Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
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Baruch Spinoza

MARK ANTOKOLSKII (1843-1902)

Details
Baruch Spinoza
MARK ANTOKOLSKII (1843-1902)
signed 'Antocolsky P (?)' on the base, stamped 'BB' under base
bronze with brown/green patina
25 in. (63.8 cm.) high
Provenance
Joseph Stieglitz, Israel.
Acquired from the above by Asher and Nechama Rosenblum, Ramat Gan, in 1960s.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
G. Presnov, L. Fadeeva, et al., Gosudarstvennyi Russkii Muzei, Skulptura XVIII-nachalo XX Veka, Katalog, Leningrad, 1988, pp. 25-26, no. 53, comparative marble example illustrated.
E.V. Kuznetsova, M.M. Antokol'skii, Zhizn' i Tvorchestvo, Moscow, 1989, pp. 118-131, comparative marble and bronze examples illustrated.
C. Roth, Jewish Art, Jerusalem, 1971, pl. 339, comparative bronze example illustrated.
S. Tumarkin Goodman, Russian Jewish Artists in a Century of Change 1890-1990, Munich, 1995, p.149, ill.5, comparative marble example illustrated.
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Aleksandra Babenko
Aleksandra Babenko

Lot Essay

Antokolskii worked on his model of Spinoza for more than ten years; his first clay models were sculpted in 1873. The present bronze appears to be a version which differs from the known casts, such as those in the Tel-Aviv Museum, Israel and the Lviv National Art Gallery, Ukraine. The presence of pins on the base and the chair suggests that this model predates the final casts.

The works of Mark Antokolskii represented the highest achievements in Russian realism of the nineteenth century and were admired for their psychological complexity. Antokolskii believed that sculpture should represent a social and human ideal and tried to reveal the best of human nature in his works.

The sculptor was born into a large Jewish family and frequently addressed Jewish themes in his work. The idea of Spinoza occurred to Antokolskii as early as 1872. Although he made a few clay studies in the 1870s, the sculptor did not start the full-scale work until he moved to Paris in 1877. In a letter dated December 1877 to Savva Mamontov, a well-known patron of the arts, Antokolskii wrote, 'I cannot describe to you how much the image of Spinoza is dear to me. This little man with a grand spirit came out of the medieval darkness like a reef'.

It was Spinoza's qualities of self-sacrifice and asceticism that Antokolskii sought to capture in his sculpture. Baruch Spinoza was a 17th century Dutch philosopher, and one of the most radical and controversial figures of his time. Rejecting traditional notions of religion and monarchy, Spinoza was largely critised by his contemporaries. This reminded Antokolskii of himself.

The artist was drawn to Spinoza's philosophic ideas of rationalism as well as his image as a martyr. Spinoza meant as much to Antokolskii as his important earlier work Christ judged by the People (1874). Both sculptures marked the beginning of a new direction in the artist's work.

The main work on Spinoza was carried out in the late 70s and early 80s when Antokolskii was going through a very difficult period of his life. In his letter to the critic Vladimir Stasov, dated 17 October 1878, the artist wrote, 'It was difficult to depict this gentle, modest soul yet large heart which loved and forgave everyone, the outer poverty yet inner wealth'.

Further models in marble are displayed in the State Russian Museum, St Petersburg and Kiev National Museum of Russian Art, Ukraine.

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