Henri Laurens (1885-1954)
Henri Laurens (1885-1954)
Henri Laurens (1885-1954)
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Henri Laurens (1885-1954)
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Henri Laurens (1885-1954)

Grande cariatide

Henri Laurens (1885-1954)
Grande cariatide
signed with monogram (on the left side of the base); numbered and inscribed with foundry mark '0/6 Alexis Rudier. Fondeur Paris.' (on the back of the base)
bronze with brown patina
Height: 36 ¼ in. (92 cm.)
Length: 17 ¼ in. (43.8 cm.)
Depth: 20 ½ in. (51 cm.)
Conceived in 1930
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
Private collection, Canada (acquired from the above).
Landau Fine Art, Montreal (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, May 2000.
W. Hofmann and D.-H. Kahnweiler, The Sculpture of Henri Laurens, New York, 1970, p. 218 (plaster version illustrated, pp. 34-35).
Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris, Henri Laurens, 1985, p. 32, no. 22 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Conceived in 1930, Grande cariatide bridges the fractured planes of Laurens’s Cubist work with the supple forms of his later sculptures. Grande cariatide depicts the figure of a kneeling nude, supporting herself on her left foot, with her arms arched over her head. The resulting totemic monumentality of the sculpture is juxtaposed with the gentleness of her form. “Laurens’s work is a living force that does not speak. What serenity of power!” wrote the critic Maurice Raynal (“Henri Laurens,” Le point, no. 33, July 1946).
Werner Hoffman explored the contracted angles and solidity of the subject: “The human body consists of head, trunk, and limbs. Taken by itself, the trunk is a circumscribed, compact volume, which is opened up and given space by the limbs. Any attempt to accentuate the closed volume without reducing it to a fragment—the torso—must contain the spatial ambition of the limbs and suppress their tendency toward expansion. This means that the limbs must adapt themselves to the compact volume of the trunk.” Hoffman further explained “the central idea of the Caryatid becomes clear if one keeps this in mind. The drawn-up leg, driving down into the floor, does not presume its own independence; it is a part of the upper body, inseparable from it. In it the pillar, the body’s ‘rhyming word,’ is articulated most consistently. The knee reaches to the level of the shoulder, that is, to the zone in which the arms take up and continue its vertical thrust. But even the arms have been stripped of their independence: they have no movement of their own, but continue back into the trunk. The upright ‘supporting’ forms—the drawn-up leg and thigh, the trunk, and the arms—are bound up with the ‘burdening’ forms; the horizontal thigh, the left restrained, curved breast, the head, and the forearm resting on it” (op. cit., p. 16).
While the form is both simple yet precise, the artist has focused on soft volumes to shape the eyes, mouth and other anatomical details while compacting the body into a rectilinear, tight conformity between the head and the limbs. As Louis-Gabriel Clayeux would later highlight, “[Laurens’s] development is that of all great artists, a history of a deliberate asceticism that dispenses with detail, with all that is unnecessary, with charm or effect…” (“La peinture," Le Monde français, no. 5, February 1946, p. 311). In viewing this subject, one thinks of Aristide Maillol’s revisited classicism. But, unlike Maillol, Laurens does not stylize his figure; he reduces forms to the essential, making use only of the simplicity of the volumes. Laurens's work of the period was inextricably linked to prehistoric art and that of the Cretans and Normans. He does not mimic the styles but rather takes them on to reassess and reassemble.

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