Arbrantegas is the culmination of a series of four sculptures of Heads created by Dubuffet between 1959-60 which fall between the relief-like Matériologies series and his Petites statues de la vie précaire. The Heads were a natural progression from the two dimensional work that the artist was creating at the time. He would use papier-mâché, aluminium foil and in the case of Arbrantegas plaster which has been rolled into a lump, then spread out and shaped into a rudimentary figure. In this respect, Dubuffet's work shares a certain similarity with Jean Fautrier whose relief-like paintings and occasional sculptures demonstrate the very physical act of shaping and handling matter. The physicality of the matter used in its execution was of primary importance in the creation of the work. Fautrier's methods almost certainly stimulated Dubuffet in his execution of Abrantegas, which is exceptional amongst the four heads in that Dubuffet has used the more pliable material of plaster in this work.
Andreas Franzke has written of Dubuffet's head sculptures:
"By mixing colour with the papier-mâché and working over the finished sculptures with a plastic paste and traces of plaster, the artist transformed their surfaces into a vital field of material events and...visual sensations. Not least due to this dual effect of the material, the four head-monuments correspond, in their explosive material presence, to the painted imagery which emerged in parallel with them....
"A certain exception within the group is the piece entitled Abrantegas. Instead of paier-maçhé, it is shaped of plaster with a coating of synthetic paste. Not surprisingly, its most striking feature is an impression of compact solidity, though the artist has mitigated this somewhat by creating a great variety of surface texture." Jean Dubuffet - Petites statues de la vie précaire, Berlin 1998 (translated from the German by J.. Gabriel).
In a letter to Noël Arnaud from the artist dated Paris, 14 mai 1961 Dubuffet himeself commented:
"My papier-mâché statues of the past year (and also those of plaster) are related to my taste for old stone hearths and [cane handles] and especially to those that you so kindly carried in your strong hands from the office to the chimney breast in my dining room".
Apart from having the appearance of ancient stone with its connotations of solidity and timelessness, there is in Abrentegas a distinctly monumental aura, which as Dianne Waldman has described conveys a "sense of the magic and mystery of totemic form and an unearthly lifeforce that has a palpable reality". (Exh. Cat., Transformations in Sculpture. Four Decades of American and European Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1995, p. 14).