Jacques Lipchitz

First Study for Prometheus

1931, cast 1960s

On display at Tate Liverpool

Jacques Lipchitz 1891–1973
Original title
Etude pour 'Prométheé'
Object: 120 x 279 x 140 mm
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982

Catalogue entry

T03517 First Study for Prometheus 1931

Plaster 4 3/4 × 11 × 5 1/2 (120 × 279 × 140)
Inscribed ‘67.’ in blue paint under base
Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982
Lit: Irene Patai, Encounters: The Life of Jacques Lipchitz, 1961, p.281; Arnason 1969, repr.68 (bronze); Lipchitz 1972, repr.113 (bronze) and p.127

The terracotta original of this sculpture belongs to the University of Arizona Museum of Art (Arizona 1982, 9, repr.)

Lipchitz made sculptures of two incidents from the myth of Prometheus (see also T01755, T03500 and T03497). This plaster illustrates the end of his story, when he was punished for stealing fire from the gods by being chained to a rock, with a vulture gnawing at his liver. According to Lipchitz there was originally a vulture with this figure:

During 1931 I made a small sketch of a ‘Prometheus’, a reclining figure with arched back and screaming mouth. There was originally a vulture who was tearing at his liver, but this part of the sculpture disappeared or was destroyed and I preserved only the figure. This, again, is important to me as one of my earlier uses of a theme from classical mythology to illustrate some of my thoughts about the world, in this case specifically about the intellectuals who were moving into a period of darkness and persecution. I was haunted by the specter of fascism in Germany, and this little piece reflected some of my feeling (Lipchitz, loc.cit.).

The pose of the man with head leaning back and mouth open had already been used as an expression of extreme emotion in the small study ‘Mother and Child’, 1929 (Lipchitz 1972, repr.92).

The plaster was cast in the early 1960s.

[For T03397 and T03479 to T03534 the foundry inscriptions, and reproductions of casts in other materials in the books listed below, are recorded. Abbreviations used:

Arnason 1969 H.H. Arnason, Jacques Lipchitz: Sketches in Bronze, 1969

Lipchitz 1972 Jacques Lipchitz, My Life in Sculpture, 1972

Stott 1975 Deborah A. Stott, Jacques Lipchitz and Cubism, 1975 (reprinted 1978)

Otterlo 1977 A.M. Hammacher, Lipchitz in Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, 1977

Centre Pompidou 1978 Nicole Barbier, Lipchitz: oeuvres de Jacques Lipchitz (1891–1973) dans les collections du Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1978

Arizona 1982 Jacques Lipchitz. Sketches and Models in the collection of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona. Introduction and catalogue by Peter Bermingham, 1982]

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986