Amedeo Modigliani

Caryatid

c.1913–4

On display at Tate Modern

Artist
Amedeo Modigliani 1884–1920
Original title
Cariatide
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 549 x 448 mm
frame: 637 x 744 x 21 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1957
Reference
T00149

Display caption

Modigliani made more than seventy drawings of caryatids. Their highly stylised manner shows his absorption in a wide variety of arts then considered to be ‘primitive’, including African and especially Cambodian carvings. The drawings were preparatory sketches for sculptures, and Modigliani is said to have conceived of a ‘temple to humanity’ surrounded by hundreds of such caryatids. However, he appears to have made only one carving directly related to this crouching figure.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Amedeo Modigliani 1884-1920

T00149 Cariatide (Caryatid) c.1913-14

Inscribed 'Modigliani' b.r.
Pencil on paper, 21 5/8 x 17 5/8 (55 x 44.5)
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1957
Prov: With Léopold Zborowski, Paris; Sir Michael Sadler, Old Headington; through Leicester Galleries, London; CAS 1944
Exh: Paintings and Drawings by Modigliani and African Negro Sculpture, 7 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, November 1937 (14), lent by Sir Michael Sadler; Selected Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture from the Collection of the late Sir Michael Sadler, Leicester Galleries, London, January-February 1944 (58)
Lit: Adolphe Basler, Modigliani (Paris 1931), p.7; Gotthard Jedlicka, Modigliani 1884-1920 (Erlenbach-Zurich 1953), pp.33-4; J. Lanthemann, Modigliani 1884-1920: Catalogue Raisonné (Barcelona 1970), No.552, p.140, repr. p.300, dated 1913-14
Repr: Alfred Werner, Modigliani the Sculptor (London 1965), p.64

Modigliani made a large number of drawings of caryatids, including some partly or wholly coloured in watercolour, pastel or coloured pencil. Lanthemann reproduces 74 of various kinds, and there may well have been more. According to Basler, who knew Modigliani at the time, many of them were done before the artist embarked on carving. 'For several years, Modigliani did nothing but draw ... those numerous caryatids, which he kept promising himself to execute in stone ... Then one day he began to carve figures and heads directly in stone'. Jedlicka relates that Paul Guillaume told him Modigliani even had a fantastic project to make a temple not in honour of God, but of humanity, which was to be surrounded by hundreds of caryatids, 'columns of tenderness'. Nevertheless, out of the twenty-five or so sculptures by Modigliani that are known, only one (now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York) is of a caryatid.

As none of the caryatid drawings is dated, it is difficult to date them with certainty, but it is generally assumed that those which are highly stylised in a manner reminiscent of negro art were the earliest, and that those like this which are very rhythmical, with oval heads and almond eyes, were among the last.

Joseph Lanthemann writes (letter of 3 May 1976) that he found the photograph of this drawing which is reproduced in his book among Zborowski's papers (a suit-case full of photographs, letters, etc. left by Zborowski to Paulette Jourdain).

At some point, the drawing suffered damage from splashes of grease prior to being mounted on card. This seems to have occurred before the Zborowski photograph was taken and probably while the drawing was still in Modigliani's studio. Acquired by the Contemporary Art Society in 1944, it was offered to the Tate in that year but was not formally accepted and made part of the collection until 1957.

Published in:
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, p.528, reproduced p.528


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