Hans Bellmer 1902-1975
T00713 La Toupie
Inscribed 'Bellmer' b.l. and '1956' b.r.
Oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 25 5/8 (65 x 65)
Purchased from the Obelisk Gallery through Ewan Phillips (Grant-in-Aid) 1964
Prov: With Galerie Diderot, Paris (purchased from the artist); with Obelisk Gallery, London; Alfred Hecht, London; with Obelisk Gallery, London; Ralph Nash, London; with Obelisk Gallery, London
Exh: Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris, December 1959-February 1960 (not in catalogue); Masters of Surrealism: Ernst to Matta, Obelisk Gallery, London, March-April 1961 (2, repr.) as 'Le Père'; Hans Bellmer, Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Paris, November 1971-January 1972 (works not listed, repr.) as 'La Toupie'
Repr: Le Surréalisme, même 4, Spring 1958, p.31 ; Alain Jouffroy, Hans Bellmer (Chicago n.d.), p.24; Simon Wilson, Surrealist Painting (London 1975), pl.48 in colour
Marcel Zerbib of the Galerie Diderot, who had the artist under contract from 1955 to 1958, wrote on 18 October 1965 that 'this picture was first a project made in 1936-37 for a sculpture. This sculpture was never realized, but Bellmer continued working over this project and made several studies for it (drawings and watercolour) which became the final picture three or four years before the signature'. Bellmer signed and dated this work the day he bought it from him and he can remember seeing it lying, dusty, in Bellmer's room as early as 1949.
He confirms that the correct title is 'La Toupie'. The symbolism can be taken as woman turning the heads and hearts of men. It has also sometimes been known, incorrectly, as 'Le Père', a confusion which arose through its having been reproduced to illustrate an article by Bellmer of this title published in Le Surréalisme, même
A smaller version in watercolour, probably either the final study or a replica, as it corresponds exactly, was sold at Sotheby's on 11 December 1969, lot 122, repr.; and a variant in oils, the same size, but more stylised and linear, with the forms mainly in outline, was shown in Bellmer's exhibition at the Galerie Wolfgang Ketterer, Munich, in 1967 (95, repr.). Both are also dated 1956.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.47-8, reproduced p.47