Amedeo Modigliani

Caryatid with a Vase


Not on display

Amedeo Modigliani 1884–1920
Original title
Cariatide à la potiche
Watercolour on paper
Support: 633 × 481 mm
frame: 825 × 689 × 54 mm
Bequeathed by Mrs A.F. Kessler 1983

Display caption

Modigliani made more than seventy drawings of caryatids, as preparatory sketches for sculptures. He is said to have conceived of a ‘temple to humanity’ surrounded by hundreds of such caryatids. The drawings include a distinct group in which the figure bears a vase. This detail literally suggests springs and may, more poetically, allude to sources of inspiration. Modigliani used watercolour to emphasise his highly stylised and rhythmic construction of the body, offering a view of female beauty influenced by Indian and Cambodian carvings.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03570 Caryatid with a Vase c.1914 

Watercolour and crayon on paper 25 × 19 (633 × 481) 
Inscribed ‘modigliani’ b.r. 
Bequeathed by Mrs A.F. Kessler 1983 
Prov: Paul Guillaume, Paris; Mme Paul Guillaume, Paris; Arthur Tooth & Sons, 1936; Mrs Kessler 1936 
Exh: The Kessler Collection, Wildenstein Gallery, October–November 1948 (21); The Kessler Bequest, Tate Gallery, February–April 1984 (not numbered, repr.) 
Lit: Adolphe Basler, Modigliani, Paris, 1931, p.7; Gotthard Jedlicka, Modigliani 1884–1920, Erlenbach-Zürich, 1953, pp.33–4; J. Lanthemann, Modigliani 1884–1920: Catalogue Raisonné, Barcelona, 1970, no.586, p.141, repr. p.305 as ‘Cariatide à la Potiche’ 1914

Modigliani made a large number of drawings of caryatids, 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 are dated, it is difficult to date them with certainty, but it is generally assumed that those which are highly stylised were the earliest, and that those like this which are very rhythmical, with oval heads and almond eyes, were among the last.

There are nine other related drawings and watercolours which show a figure in a very similar attitude (Lanthemann 575 and 578–85), but in most cases with little or no indication of the object she is supporting. The version closest to the present work, and probably made at the same time, is Lanthemann 585, in which the figure is holding exactly the same type of large rounded vase.

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

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