Henry Moore OM, CH

Working Model for Three Piece No.3: Vertebrae

1968, cast c.1968

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Object: 1080 × 2360 × 1220 mm, 948 kg
Presented by the artist 1978

Display caption

This work is related to Three Piece No.3: Vertebrae, a vast sculpture over twenty-four feet long and the even larger Three Forms Vertebrae outside Dallas City Hall, which is about forty-feet long. Moore argued that the size of a sculpture should be determined by where it is. As he received commissions for sculptures to be sited next to large buildings, the scale of the works grew. According to Moore, it was the intrinsic monumentality of the sculptures which allowed them to be successfully enlarged to such sizes.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Working Model for Three Piece No.3: Vertebrae is a large-scale model for a monumental bronze sculpture measuring over seven metres long. Tate’s work represents the intermediary stage in the gradual enlargement of the sculpture, which comprises three individual parts mounted on a bronze base (fig.1). These three bone-like components are arranged horizontally along the length of the rectangular base and feature projecting forms that interlock with those of the adjacent component. While each part is uniquely shaped and orientated, Moore ensured that they were sufficiently similar to create uniformity across the sculpture. Each piece has three main spurs: a thin, tubular form that terminates in a rounded tip, a short bulbous form, and another tubular form with a wide circumference that bends at a right angle and culminates in an engorged pyramidal point. Cumulatively, the sculpture is made up of contrasting spiky and rounded protrusions and curved and sharp edges. The thinner tapered tubular limbs of the outer two pieces book-end the sculpture, while the right-angled section of the middle piece creates a cantilevered, horizontal bridge-like form (fig.2). The work is designed to be viewed in the round so that no two views are the same and there is no definitive front or back. Considering the full-size version of this sculpture, the art historian Norbert Lynton noted in 2006 that although ‘the three elements are similar but not identical ... the experience offered is still one of variety within repetition’.1 The sculpture has a smooth, highly polished and reflective surface that heightens its tactile qualities.

From plaster to bronze

Origins and interpretation

The Henry Moore Gift

Alice Correia
March 2014


Norbert Lynton, ‘Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae 1968’, in David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore: Works From the Collection of the Henry Moore Foundation, London 2006, p.289.
See Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 4: Complete Sculpture 1964–73, London 1977, p.51, no.578. The maquette was later cast in a bronze edition of seven plus one artist’s copy.
Henry Moore cited in Gemma Levine, With Henry Moore: The Artist at Work, London 1978, p.123.
Henry Moore in ‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, transcript of Third Programme, BBC Radio, broadcast 14 July 1963, p.18, Tate Archive TGA 200816. (An edited version of this interview was published in the Listener, 29 August 1963, pp.305–7.)
Alan G. Wilkinson, Henry Moore Remembered: The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Toronto 1987, p.231.
Henry Moore cited in ‘Interview: Conversation between Sir [sic] Henry Moore, Wolfgang Fischer and Erich Steingräber in Much Hadham on April 3, 1978’, in Erich Steingräber, Henry Moore Maquetten, Munich 1978, p.55.
Richard Wentworth, ‘The Going Concern: Working for Moore’, Burlington Magazine, vol.130, no.1029, December 1988, pp.927–8.
Henry Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.300.
Bowness 1977, p.11.
Henry Moore, letter to Heinz Ohff, 8 March 1967, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Moore cited in Hedgecoe 1968, p.248.
Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae 1968–9 was cast in an edition of three plus one artist’s copy. Examples are held in the collections of the Seattle Art Museum; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and Himmelreichallee, Münster. The artist’s copy remains in the collection of the Henry Moore Foundation.
Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, revised edn, London 2003, p.449.
Henry Moore cited in Bill Marvell, ‘The Dallas Piece: It Just Fits the City’, Dallas Times Herald, 6 December 1978, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Moore 1963, pp.31–2.
Moore cited in Hedgecoe 1968, p.77.
[Richard Morphet], ‘T.2054 Henry Moore: Four-Piece Composition 1934’, The Tate Gallery 1976–8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979, p.121.
Bowness 1977, p.9.
Henry Moore cited in David Mitchinson (ed.), Henry Moore Sculpture with Comments by the Artist, Barcelona 1988, p.204.
Richard Calvocoressi, ‘Henry Moore, Working Model for Three Piece No.3: Vertebrae 1968’, The Tate Gallery 1978–80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981, pp.141–2.
György Doczi, ‘Hidden Harmonies of Henry Moore’s Sculpture “Vertebrae”’, Leonardo, vol.16, no.1, winter 1983, p.37.
Ibid., p.38.
Moore cited in Marvell 1978.
See ‘Note on the Henry Moore Gift’, 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
These figures are based on those listed in a memo in the exhibition’s records. See Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.
Norman Reid, letter to Mary Danowski, 31 August 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.

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