This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A15260.
Hanging Spheres dates from 1938 when Calder began making sculptures from carved bits of hardwood and wire. Although the orbiting spheres resemble forms that Calder would use in his "Constellation" series a few years later, this rare, early mobile in fact predates that body of work. Hanging Spheres represents a return to concerns about cosmology that had informed his earliest abstract sculptures. More importantly, however, it also reflects Calder's lifelong interest in toys.
The colorful, hand-painted spheres of hardwood resemble balls or marbles, as if they had been plucked from the floor of a messy child's playroom and elevated to the high-art status of found objects suspended in space. The balls each hang at the end of wires of various lengths like a sophisticated rendering of Connect the Dots. The delicate balance between the spheres allows them to circle each other gracefully. In full motion, the balls draw consecutive circles in the air.
Sweeney once stated that Calder's miniature circus, which he created and performed in Paris in the late 1920s, "was to serve as a laboratory in which some of the most original features of his later work were to be developed" (J.J. Sweeney quoted in J. Lipman, Calder's Universe, New York, 1976, p. 63). Jean Lipman agreed, noting that "this is especially evident in the mobiles, with their precision engineering, their tightrope tension and balance, and their lively acrobatic motion. The circus esthetic--a combination of suspense, surprise, spontaneity, humor, gaiety, playfulness--is at the heart of all Calder's work" (ibid).
Calder gave the present mobile to his friend and Connecticut neighbor, Richard Taylor in the 1940s. Taylor was an artist and cartoonist whose drawings regularly appeared in the New Yorker. His cartoons commented on the lives of upper-middle class bourgeoisie, whom he often pictured in their self-consciously chic homes surrounded by the latest objets d'art. Many of the object are sculptures that are certainly meant to resemble or imply Calder's work to the knowing cognoscenti of Taylor's readership. Hanging Spheres has remained with Taylor's descendents until now. This is its first public exhibition since 1943, when it was included in the landmark Alexander Calder show at the Museum of Modern Art.