Not all of the big sales in November will be in New York. Sotheby’s has the maquette to Henry Moore‘s Family Group in its Modern & Post-War British Art Evening Sale in London on November 20th. The work is special for several reasons, it was held at New York’s MoMA for 33 years. It was bought by dealer Jeffrey Loria who held it for another 31 years before he sold it to a Japanese collector who is consigning it now. The maquette is fewer than 10 inches tall but the significance of the work and the value of Moore’s art having grown so much over the last several years the estimate is at between £1.3m and £1.8m.
Family Group was conceived in 1945 and cast by 1947 (just when Moore and his wife had their first and only child after many years of marriage). The maquette was acquired by MoMA in 1947.
Here’s more from Sotheby’s press department:
Immediately after WWII, architect Eugene Rosenberg commissioned Moore to create a site-specific, large-scale sculpture for his project, the Barclay School in Stevenage, with which he was to win the Festival of Britain Architectural Award in 1951. The Barclay School was the first purpose-built comprehensive secondary school built in Britain after the war and Moore’s monumental version of Family Group was installed in 1950. The Barclay School Family Group, for which this is the maquette, was Moore’s first large-scale commission in bronze, a fundamental and seismic moment in his long and distinguished career.
Family Group is a symbol of all that Moore’s work stood for – a universal humanity distilled into the form of a family unit. The seventh of eight children of a coalminer and a coalminer’s daughter, Moore was born in an industrial town in Yorkshire to a strict and industrious father and a feminine and warm mother. And so, this work also has its roots in his earliest childhood experiences. At the same time, his work as an Official War Artist shines through, with the images of civilians sheltering from bombing raids in London, clinging together for comfort and warmth, and draped in blankets, were of fundamental significance to this final development. The sculpture is poised between Moore’s modernist sensibility for abstraction, present in the prominent ridges of the mother’s robes or the father’s Picasso-esque head, and touching naturalistic details. The outer shoulders of both mother and father curve gently inwards, and intimate protective stance that encloses their child and unifies the group. This particular cast was last exhibited in 1973, but the version of this edition in the Tate collection is currently on view, which is nice.