Christie’s announces that it has a Brancusi work that is one of the last two held outside of museum collections (The Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York each have one, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris houses the remaining pair, as well as the original plaster model):
Christie’s will offer Constantin Brancusi’s sculpture La muse endormie as a highlight of its 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 museums—The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, and two examples in the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris—while two, including the present work, remain in private collections. La muse endormie to be offered at Christie’s in May was acquired by the distinguished French collector Jacques UImann in the 1950s and has remained in his family to this day.
Anika Guntrum, International Director, Impressionist & Modern Art, states, “Jacques Ulmann remains, even today, one of France’s most important collectors. He was active in the 1950s and 1960s, buying international avant-garde works in all medium. 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 Dubuffet’s 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 Ulmann’s extraordinary eye and the passionate quest for art that challenges and delights.”
La muse endormie is the first in Brancusi’s series of ovoid sculptures, marking the inception of the artist’s mature work and his advance towards pure abstraction. The form of a sleeping woman’s 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.