Constantin Brancusi



Constantin Brancusi 1876–1957
Bronze on limestone base
Dims (base included) 405 × 171 × 210mm
Object: 279 × 171 × 210 mm, 10kg
Presented by Sir Charles Clore 1959

Display caption

This is a stylised portrait of Margit Pogany, a Hungarian art student Brancusi met in Paris in 1910. He made a marble head of her from memory, then invited her to his studio. He was delighted when she recognised it. This is one of several bronzes based on the marble. Photographs show that Miss Pogany had a round face with large eyes and strong eyebrows, and wore her hair in a smooth chignon. Brancusi has refined her features down to the very purest form. The abstract curves of this piece, and of the other 'Danaïdes', can be seen as anticipating by some years, aspects of the classicising Art Deco style of the 1920s.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Constantin Brancusi 1876-1957

T00296 Danaide c.1918

Inscribed 'C. Brâncusi' on side of neck
Bronze, 11 x 6 3/4 x 8 1/4 (28 x 16.5 x 21) on limestone base
Presented by Sir Charles Clore 1959
Prov: Jacques Doucet, Paris (purchased from the artist on the advice of H.P. Roché c.1924); through César de Hauke, Paris; Sir Charles Clore, London, 1959
Exh: Rumanian Art of the 20th Century, Royal College of Art, London, October-November 1966 (sculpture 11); A Hundred Years of Romanian Art 1870-1970, Somerset House, London, May-June 1978 (71)
Lit: Ionel Jianou, Brancusi (London 1963), pp.97-8, Philadelphia Museum cast repr. p.221; Athena C. Tacha, review of the monograph by Jianou in Art Bulletin, XLVI, 1964, p.264; Athena Tacha Spear, 'A Contribution to Brancusi Chronology' in Art Bulletin, XLVIII, 1966, pp.47, 54, No.47d, Meyer cast repr. between pp.52 and 53; Sidney Geist, 'Letter to the Editor' in Art Bulletin, XLVIII, 1966, pp.462-4; Athena T. Spear, 'Letter to the Editor' in Art Bulletin, XLVIII, 1966, pp.465-7, Meyer cast repr. facing p.468; Sidney Geist, Brancusi (New York 1968), No.73d, pp.37, 44, 190-2, 219-20, Meyer cast repr. p.44; Sidney Geist in exh. catalogue Constantin Brancusi 1876-1957: A Retrospective Exhibition, Guggenheim Museum, New York, November 1969-February 1970, p.99, Philadelphia Museum and Warren casts repr. p.98; Sidney Geist, Brancusi: The Sculpture and Drawings (New York 1975), No.87f, p.179, Philadelphia Museum cast repr. p.70 in colour
Repr: Studio, CLIX, 1960, p.113; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1966), p.207

One of Brancusi's series of heads based on a young Hungarian art student named Margit Pogany. In two communications of 1952 and 1953 to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Miss Pogany records that she studied painting for several years in Paris and met Brancusi there. She was living in a boarding house and Brancusi, who lived nearby, used to come to it for his meals. One day in July 1910 he asked her to visit his studio and see a work he had just finished. This was a white marble head which, though very simplified, she recognised correctly as a portrait of herself. She afterwards sat for him several times in December 1910-January 1911 and each time he modelled a new bust of her which he then threw away. However after her departure in January 1911 he made a series of bronze and marble busts of her with the arms as well as the head, including a bronze which he sent to her in 1913 and which is now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The last variants were made as late as 1931.

The original white marble made from memory appears to have been the one exhibited in Brancusi's one-man show at the Photo Secession Gallery, New York, in March-April 1914 as 'Danaide', which bears a close relationship to the Tate's bronze. It was reworked in 1925, when the facial features were eliminated so as to present a continuous surface, and is now in the Norton Simon Museum of Art, Inc., Fullerton, California. There are altogether six bronzes based on the marble (Geist, 1975, Nos.87a-f), with certain variations in their sizes and surface finish. Geist has suggested in his monograph of 1975 that the first three of these, now in the collection of Dr Eugene Meyer, Baltimore, the Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris (the Brancusi studio) and the Kunstverein, Winterthur, respectively, form a distinct group on the basis of surface, size, foundry mark and signature. All three are 27cm high, have the foundry mark 'C. Valsuani' and are inscribed 'BRÂNCUSI'. He dates all these c.1913 on the basis that the Meyer cast was acquired from the sculptor before the First World War and that one of them is illustrated and dated 1913 in Benedikt Livshits, Polutoraglazyi strelets (Leningrad 1933), p.149. The fourth cast, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is slightly larger (27.7cm high) and may represent an intermediate stage between this first group and the two casts now in the collection of Mrs G.H. Warren, New York, and the Tate Gallery, which are 28cm and 28.3cm high respectively, and are both inscribed 'C. Brâncusi', without a foundry mark. Geist suggests that these last two were made about 1918, because one or other of them appears in a photograph of 1918 in the Brancusi Bequest to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, and the cast now in the Tate Gallery was bought from the artist about 1924. The differences in height occur in the neck.

Geist No.87a is partly gilded, while 87c has a black patina. The Warren cast is polished all over. The casts in the Brancusi studio and at Philadelphia have the face and the front part of the neck gilded or polished respectively, and the hair patinated black. The Tate's cast shows many traces of black patina on the hair, similar to the treatment of the hair in the Brancusi studio and Philadelphia versions, but there seems to be no evidence that the face was ever actually gilded or polished.

When first acquired by the Tate, this cast was on a base which was clearly not original and did not suit it. After a further unsuccessful experiment, a new limestone base was made for it in 1976 copied as closely as possible from the base of the cast in the Brancusi studio, and the head was set on it at exactly the same angle.

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, pp.73-4, reproduced p.73

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