This work is sold with a certificate from Dr Friedrich Teja Bach dated Wien, den 3. september 2002 and will be included in his forthcoming new edition of the Brancusi catalogue raisonné of the sculptures.
1907, the year that the present work was executed, was a turning point for Constantin Brancusi. He received a commission for a funeral monument to be erected in Buzau, Romania for the grave of a local personality, Petre Stanescu (fig. 1). The commission was to consist of a two meter high pedestal with a bust of Stanescu on the top and an allegorical praying woman at the bottom. His first studies, stylistically reminiscent of his previous works, were for a classical female nude, which Brancusi decided was inappropriate for a grave. Originally conceived as a kneeling woman raising her arms in prayer, a figure whose realism was still largely inspired by Rodin, the subject became gradually more simplified and more focused on the figure's movement. This simplification of form marks the beginning of an asceticism that would never leave Brancusi's work. Studies for the large figure of La prière were known only from old pictures taken by Brancusi himself in his studio. This unique example of Etude pour la prière is typical of Brancusi's new ideal, achieving the essence of form by the simplification of the formal shape.