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I) cariatide
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I) cariatide
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About the item

The present two works are among the most remarkable examples of Modigliani’s exploration of Caryatids, the theme that preoccupied the artist during his early years in Paris, leading up to the First World War. It was Modigliani’s dream to create a great series of stone caryatids (fig. 1), but his poor health limited the scope of his production in this medium, and instead he turned to a two-dimensional exploration of this theme, executing a large number of drawings and studies, and only a few rare paintings (fig. 2). It is in the theme of Caryatids that the influence of Modigliani’s sculptural work on his paintings and drawings becomes particularly evident. In the present works, the two painted caryatids bear a strong sculptural character, visible in the heavy, voluminous quality of the female bodies. In depicting these female nudes, the artist was less interested in anatomical details, than in the immediate effect derived from ‘primitive’ African and Oceanic art (fig. 3). The highly stylised, geometricised forms were influenced not only by tribal artefacts, but also by the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi, who similarly sought to reduce the human form to the minimal sculptural elements. Both the heavy, sculptural forms of the two Caryatids, and their affinity to ‘primitive’ art, bears resemblance to paintings by Picasso (fig. 4), who shared Modigliani’s interest in African and Oceanic art.\nThe subject of Caryatids derives from Modigliani’s fascination with these nude or partly draped female figures that supported the roofs of ancient Greek temples. Borrowing the theme from classical antiquity, the artist detached the caryatids from their architectural setting, transforming a decorative device into an autonomous figure. Abandoning the naturalism with which the Greeks represented their caryatids, Modigliani focused his attention on the remarkable details of the women’s hair and facial features. As Noël Alexandre remarked: ‘Modigliani was enchanted by these figures – at once real and unreal – whose inflexibility, imposed by their functional role, is relieved by the fantasy of their being atlantes or idealised women. […] The subtle use of stylization and simplification derived from African masks, tattoos, earrings and necklaces, intensifies the majestic elegance of these beautiful creatures, who epitomize the highly personal devotion that Modigliani showed to women’ (N. Alexandre, in Unknown Modigliani: Drawings from the Collection of Paul Alexandre (exhibition catalogue), The Royal Academy, London, 1993, p. 189).\nThe first owner of these two outstanding paintings was the French physician, Dr. Paul Alexandre, who was Modigliani’s friend and patron. Dr. Alexandre had an enormous admiration for the young Italian artist whom he met in Paris in the autumn of 1907. He encouraged and supported Modigliani throughout his early years in Paris and their friendship resulted in Alexandre accumulating an unparalleled collection of works from Modigliani’s formative years in Paris. As Alexandre himself noted: ‘From the day of our first meeting I was struck by his remarkable artistic gifts, and I begged him not to destroy a single sketchbook or a single study. I put the meagre resources I could spare at his disposal, and I possess almost all his paintings and drawings from this period… The preparatory sketches and finished drawings allow one to follow his development step-by-step, stroke by stroke, during those decisive years. It is extraordinary to have been able to assemble the successive states (like the states of an engraving) of the remarkably active mind of an artist searching for a style of his own, which did, in fact, very soon emerge’ (quoted in ibid., p. 15). Their friendship was cut short by the onset of World War I and Paul Alexandre’s subsequent mobilisation in August 1914 when he joined an infantry battalion. He never saw Modigliani again as he was not released until the general demobilisation, shortly before the artist’s premature death in 1920.\n\nFig. 1, Amedeo Modigliani, Nu debout, circa 1911-12, limestone, Australian National Gallery, Canberra\nFig. 2, Amedeo Modigliani, Cariatide, 1911-13, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya\nFig. 3, Representation of a Female Ancestor, Baluba statuette\nFig. 4, Pablo Picasso, Deux femmes nues, 1906, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
GB
GB
GB

medium

Oil over pencil on board

creator

Amedeo Modigliani

dimensions

122 by 41cm.

literature

Both: Arthur Pfannstiel, Modigliani, Paris, 1929, p. 5 (each titled Nu) Arthur Pfannstiel, Modigliani et son œuvre, Paris, 1956, p. 63, nos. 23 & 24 (each titled Nu) Ambrogio Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, peintre, Milan, 1958, nos. 24 & 25, illustrated Leone Piccioni and Ambrogio Ceroni, I dipinti di Amedeo Modigliani, Milan, 1970, nos. 32 & 33, illustrated p. 89 Osvaldo Patani, Amedeo Modigliani. Catalogo Generale. Dipinti, Milan, 1991, nos. 36 & 37, illustrated p. 66

provenance

Both: Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris Acquired by the family of the present owner on 29th March 1962

time_period

Painted circa 1911-12.

creator_nationality_dates

1884 - 1920


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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