Georges Braque



In Tate Modern

Georges Braque 1882–1963
Original title
La Mandore
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 711 × 559 mm
frame: 926 × 802 × 75 mm
Purchased 1966

Display caption

  1. Braque’s interest in collecting musical instruments is captured in this painting. Here he depicts a small stringed instrument called a madora. The painting is made up of different geometric shapes, making it appear fragmented. This style suggests a sense of rhythm, matching the musical subject of the painting. Braque explained that he liked to include instruments in his cubist works. ‘In the first place because I was surrounded by them, and secondly because their plasticity, their volumes, related to my particular concept of still life’.

Gallery label, August 2020

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Catalogue entry

Georges Braque 1882-1963

T00833 La Mandore (Mandora) 1910

Inscribed 'Braque' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 22 3/4 (72.5 x 60)
Purchased from the Brook Street Gallery and the Galerie Beyeler (Special Grant-in-Aid) 1966
Prov: With Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris (purchased from the artist); Wilhelm Uhde, Paris; Uhde sale, Drouot, Paris, 30 May 1921, lot 3 repr. as 'La Guitare'; bt. Mme. Niedmeyer or Niemeyer; ...; Hans Herz, Berlin (purchased in Paris in the early 1930s); Mrs. Julia Herz, London; with Leicester Galleries, London, 1941; Sir Roland Penrose, London, 1941; Lady Penrose, London; sold on behalf of the ICA, Sotheby's, London, 23 June 1966, lot 4, repr. in colour; bt. jointly by the Brook Street Gallery, London, and the Galerie Beyeler, Basle
Exh: The Cubist Spirit in its Time, London Gallery, London, March-May 1947 (2, repr.); Forty Years of Modern Art 1907-1947, ICA, Academy Hall, London, February-March 1948 (7); Gloire de Ia Peinture Moderne: Hommage à James Ensor, Palais des Thermes, Ostend, July-August 1949 (20, repr.); Eretentoonstelling James Ensor, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, September-October 1949 (20); 75 Oeuvres du Demi-Siécle, Grande Salle 'La Resérve', Knokke-Le Zoute, July-September 1951 (31, repr.); Le Cubisme (1907-14), Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, January-April 1953 (30); Georges Braque, Kunsthalle, Bern, April-May 1953 (20); Kunsthaus, Zurich, June-July 1953 (20); Georges Braque, ICA, London, May-July 1954 (3, repr.); Cubism 1910-1912, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, January-February 1956 (1, repr.); G. Braque, RSA, Edinburgh, August-September 1956 (22, repr.); Tate Gallery, September-November 1956 (22, repr.); Georges Braque, Kunsthalle, Basle, April-May 1960 (16); Les Sources du XXe Siécle, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, November 1960-January 1961 (64, repr.); L'Atelier de Braque, Musée du Louvre, Paris, November 1961 (3, repr.)
Lit: George Isarlov, 'Georges Braque' in Orbes, No.3, Spring 1932, p.82, No.73 as 'La Mandore' 1910; Marco Valsecchi and Massimo Carrà, L'Opera Completa di Braque 1908-1929 (Milan 1971), No.59, p.88, repr. p.88 and pl.XII in colour as 'Mandola' 1910; Angelica Zander Rudenstine, The Guggenheim Museum Collection: Paintings 1880-1945 (New York 1976), Vol.1, pp.43-6
Repr: Cahiers d'Art, 1933, p.15 (dated 1909); Edwin Mullins, Braque (London 1968), pl.22 in colour as 'The Mandolin' 1910

This picture was bought by the Galerie Kahnweiler in 1910 and is one of four still lifes with musical instruments which are generally agreed to have been painted in the winter of 1909-10, the others being 'Violin and Jug' in the Kunstmuseum, Basle, and a pair of pictures 'Violin and Palette' and 'Piano and Mandola' in the Guggenheim Museum, New York. The upper part of 'Piano and Mandola' has a marked similarity and even includes what appears to be the same musical instrument. T00833 has the shallowest, most compressed space of the four, with the objects closely integrated with the background, and was therefore probably the last. It has sometimes been dated 1909, but is listed in the Kahnweiler photographic archives and by Isarlov as a work of 1910.

The fact that the same instrument appears in the Guggenheim Museum still life of the same period, but turned to the right instead of to the left, would suggest that Braque had a specific instrument in mind, but none has so far been traced. Claude Laurens, who is Braque's heir, does not have one in his possession. A somewhat similar instrument seen hanging on the wall of Braque's studio in a photograph taken about 1912 (repr. S. Fumet, Georges Braque, Paris 1965, p.41) would seem to be a bandurria, a Spanish folk instrument somewhere between a cittern and a guitar, and frequently used to accompany dancing. The instrument in the two pictures certainly belongs to the lute family because of the shape of the body and the width of the finger-board, and is not the same.

The Tate's picture, though sometimes wrongly known as 'Guitar' or 'Mandolin', figures in the Kahnweiler photographic records as 'Mandora', a title probably given by Braque himself, and the Guggenheim Museum's still life is listed as 'Piano and Mandora'. A mandora is a small version of the lute which was not made after the early 19th century. At the same time a mandola is frequently, but inaccurately, known in French as 'une mandore' and Braque is unlikely to have known the difference. A mandola is similar in appearance to the classical lute - that is to say it has the same wide neck and the same number of strings, and the size and position of the sound box is similar - but it is cheaper. Both are 'bowl' shaped on one side. The difference is that the upper part of the neck does not bend backwards as in the lute, at a fairly sharp angle, but only very slightly - the peg board looks more or less upright. If one is correct in reading the planes at the back of the top of the neck in both pictures as a bent-back section of the instrument, then it would be a lute and not a mandora or mandola. However both Douglas Cooper and Claude Laurens state that Braque referred to it as a mandora, so this title has been retained.

Speaking of his methods at this period, Braque explained to Dora Vallier: 'It was not a case of starting from the object: one went towards the object. ... When fragmented objects appeared in my painting about 1909, it was a way of getting as close to the objects as painting allowed. Fragmentation allowed me to establish space and movement in space and I was only able to introduce objects after space had been created. ... At this period I painted many musical instruments, in the first place because I was surrounded by them and secondly because their plasticity, their volumes related to my particular conception of still life' (Dora Vallier, 'Braque: La Peinture et Nous' in Cahiers d'Art, 1954, p.16).

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.75-6, reproduced p.75


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