NEW YORK, NY.- Christies
will offer Constantin Brancusis sculpture La muse endormie as a highlight of its May 15 Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art in New York (estimate: $20-30 million). La muse endormie counts among the greatest achievements in sculptural history. Its drastic purification of form and emotional resonance mark the dawn of a new sculptural language.
First conceived in marble in 1909-1910, La muse endormie was cast by Brancusi in six bronze versions by 1913. Four bronzes today are housed in museumsThe Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, and two examples in the Musée National dArt Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Pariswhile two, including the present work, remain in private collections. La muse endormie to be offered at Christies in May was acquired by the distinguished French collector Jacques UImann in the 1950s and has remained in his family to this day.
Jessica Fertig, Senior Vice President, Head of Evening Sale, Impressionist and Modern Art, comments, Bringing Brancusis masterpiece of 20th Century sculpture to market for todays collectors is an honor for Christies. La muse endormie has a magical amplitude displaying a formal genius and wondrously modulated patina. Brancusi considered each of his La muse endormie bronzes a unique work of art, rather than as part of a uniform edition. He therefore oversaw the patination process during casting to ensure variations between every bronze. Brancusi delighted in the varying effects of color and finish, always aware of the diversity of expression he could achieve through patination. The present sculpture has a rich, warm patina that Brancusi heightened by gilding sections, a contrast he described to the legendary American collector John Quinn as enhancing the expressive power of his art. With four examples of Brancusis La muse endormie in museum collections, and one of two left in private hands, this is a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire a work of iconic status.
Anika Guntrum, International Director, Impressionist & Modern Art, states, Jacques Ulmann remains, even today, one of Frances most important collectors. He was active in the 1950s and 1960s, buying international avant-garde works in all mediums. He acquired Number 13 by Jackson Pollock, now in the Saint Louis Art Museum; Tête de Fernande in plaster by Picasso from Ambroise Vollard; countless paintings by Dali, Ernst and the Surrealist artists, as well as Tribal art. He was Dubuffets earliest supporter, and not only financially supported him by acquiring his works but also championed the artist to the international market. These works, along with the seminal Muse endormie by Brancusi now being offered for sale, are a testament to Jacques Ulmanns extraordinary eye and the passionate quest for art that challenges and delights.
La muse endormie is the first in Brancusis series of ovoid sculptures, marking the inception of the artists mature work and his advance towards pure abstraction. The form of a sleeping womans head has been distilled into an almost perfect oval, the purity of outline marked only by subtle allusions to the physical features of the model.
Brancusi was in his early thirties when he conceived this breakthrough sculpture. He had arrived in Paris from his native Romania in 1904 at the age of twenty-eight. From his earliest years in Paris, Brancusi had been fascinated by the theme of sleep. Between 1906 and 1908, he sculpted several heads of sleeping women and children, all of which retain the descriptive naturalism that he had learned from his work in Auguste Rodins studio.