Audio: Miguel Covarrubias's Offering of Fruits for the Temple
Miguel Covarrubias (Mexican 1904-1957)
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Miguel Covarrubias (Mexican 1904-1957)

Offering of Fruits for the Temple

Miguel Covarrubias (Mexican 1904-1957)
Offering of Fruits for the Temple
signed 'COVARRUBIAS' (lower left)
oil on canvas
29¼ x 23¾ in. (74.3 x 60.3 cm.)
Painted in 1932.
Private collection, Mexico City.
By descent to the present owner.
L. García-Noriega y Nieto, ed., Miguel Covarrubias: Homenaje, Mexico, Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporáneo, Fundación Cultural Televisa, 1987, p. 114 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

Miguel Covarrubias, the 20th century caricaturist, illustrator, painter, writer, anthropologist, archeologist, and much more, was Mexico's Renaissance man. His accomplishments in these arts, as well as his revelation, through images and words, gave us an understanding and appreciation for the art and cultural life of Bali.

In 1930, Covarrubias made the first of two trips to Bali. The immediate impact on the artist was overwhelming and resulted in his classic book, The Island of Bali, about the life, arts, religion, and culture of the Balinese people. "Only an artist could have penetrated so deeply into the spirit of the dance, theater, music, handicrafts, and sports of Bali; and only a man of learning in anthropology could have understood and recorded so accurately its religion, sexual customs, family life and economic and political organization."[1]

Covarrubias particularly admired the esteem given to art and the artist in Bali. Theirs was a highly developed art, intricate in form and meaning. It was a place where an artist never sought material pay for his work, but rather created for the pleasure of his fellowman and for the worship of his gods.

As an artist, Covarrubias's understanding of their art as it was translated into rituals, festivals, and into the actual basis of Balinese culture was essential to his interpretation of their work. The Balinese had that infallible instinct for color, beauty and harmony that was characteristic of his work.

As a man, he was enchanted by the idyllic beauty of Bali's women. He stated that they were as "stately and graceful as goddesses, tawny-skinned with dark glowing eyes, proud mouths, erect bearing".[2] Some of his most beautiful images are those of Balinese women with their frank sensuality, economy of line, and tropical colors. Regarding these works it was said they support the Chinese proverb, 'A picture is worth ten thousand words'.[3]

Such is the painting Offering of Fruits for the Temple from 1932. Today Covarrubias's stunning Balinese works are among the most acclaimed and dearest of any of the expatriate artists, who worked in Bali before World War II.

Adriana Williams.

1) M. Covarrubias, Island of Bali, Book jacket, Alfred A. Knopf, N.Y. 1937.
2) E. C. Hill. "Human Side of the News," Journal, 23 Dec.1937.
3) Vanity Fair, Jan. 1935.

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