Sir Jacob Epstein

The Visitation


Sir Jacob Epstein 1880–1959
Object: 1651 × 470 × 457 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1927

Display caption

This life-size figure was intended to be one of a pair, never completed, called 'The Visitation'. This was an event recorded in the Bible, where the Virgin Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth to share with her the news that she is to give birth to Jesus. Epstein described this figure as expressing ' a humility so profound as to shame the beholder who comes to my sculpture expecting rhetoric or splendour of gesture'. When he first exhibited it he called it 'A Study' so as to diguise its content.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Not inscribed.
Bronze, 65×18 1/2×18 (165×47×46).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1927.
Coll: Purchased by the C.A.S. at the Leicester Galleries.
Exh: Leicester Galleries, June–July 1926 (7), as ‘Study’; Arts Council, Tate Gallery, September–November 1952 (24, repr. in Illustrated Supplement, pl.16); Edinburgh Festival, August–September 1961 (71, repr. pl.9); Arts Council, Tate Gallery, November–December 1961 (28).
Lit: Haskell, 1931, pp.63, 72, 184, repr. p.63; Powell, 1932, pp.117–18, repr. p.115; Epstein, 1940, p.133, repr. p.184; ibid., 1955, p.112, repr. facing p.114; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1958, p.189, repr. pl.14; Buckle, 1963, pp.145, 153, 174, 426, repr. pls. 220–2.
Repr: Studio, XCII, 1926, p.117; Black, 1942, pl.24.

Epstein stated of this work: ‘In 1926 in Epping Forest I modelled a life-size figure which I intended for a group to be called “The Visitation”. I can recall with pleasure how this figure looked in my little hut which I used as a studio. I should have liked it to stand amongst trees on a knoll overlooking Monk Wood. This figure stands with folded hands, and expresses a humility so profound as to shame the beholder who comes to my sculpture expecting rhetoric or splendour of gesture.... When I exhibited the work at the Leicester Galleries, wishing to avoid controversy, I called it “A Study”. By this disguise I succeeded for once in evading the critics, always ready to bay and snap at a work. A subscription was raised to purchase it, and I recall that Richard Wyndham gave the proceeds of an exhibition he was holding of his own work towards its purchase for the Tate Gallery.’

The model was a music student who acted as secretary to John Drinkwater: her modest demeanour struck Epstein as ideal for what he had in mind. The companion figure was never completed.

Other casts made more recently are in the following collections: Alan and Janet Wurzburger, Baltimore, U.S.A.; anonymous loan to the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; W. J. Keswick, Dumfries; at least two others in private collections in the U.S.A.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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