Helmet Head and Shoulders
1952, cast date unknown
190 x 205 x 150 mm
Presented by the artist 1978
In an edition of 10 plus 2 artist’s copies
Technique and condition
However, marks on the interior, in particular towards the top of the sculpture, suggest that these surfaces received no further treatment after casting and thus retain the surface impressions of the modelled plasticine (fig.2). The sculpture’s interior surfaces also bear a number of regular striations, suggesting the use of a rotary wire brush finisher, along with marks made by hand filing tools on the upper edges of the shoulders, possibly to remove casting flashes or mould lines.
The bronze has been artificially patinated with a chemical solution to produce a very dark brown patina (fig.4). On the outside of the sculpture this has been rubbed back to reveal the metal surface, largely confining the dark colour to the interior and crevices. The dark brown patina is slightly mottled and patchy, which may be the result of a concentrated patination solution being stippled onto the surface with a brush, possibly while the bronze was being heated with a blowtorch. Another pale brown, transparent layer of patina appears to have been applied over this before the entire surface received a coating of clear wax.
How to citeLyndsey Morgan, 'Technique and Condition', March 2011, in Alice Correia, ‘Helmet Head and Shoulders 1952, cast date unknown by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, October 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www
The tubular form curves outwards from the neck to form what appear to be gently rounded, albeit asymmetrical shoulders. When seen from the rear, the back of the sculpture forms an arch so that the left flank rests on the base at a single point (fig.2). From this angle a set of three arced striations can also be seen radiating from the rounded lower edge of the dome to around the point where the neck begins to curve outwards. Similar contour lines feature around the rounded left shoulder, although here the striations are deeper and thus more prominent. The edge of the left shoulder extends downwards to the base before curling upwards and across the front, perhaps echoing the position and shape of a breastplate (fig.3). Here it is cut off by a straight vertical edge, continued downwards from the open neck. In contrast, the other edge of the open neck leads down the top edge of the right shoulder, curling smoothly down and around towards the base, culminating in a point near the centre. As a result the cavity on this side of the sculpture is left exposed with no comparable breastplate closing it off.
While the left shoulder and breastplate are marked by striations that radiate downwards at increasing intervals from the neck, only the upper edge of the right flank features comparable but smaller incised lines (fig.4). On this side the open cavity exposes the inner surface of the sculpture, which is revealed to be rougher and duller than the smooth and polished exterior. This surface is also slightly pitted and bears a multitude of evenly-spaced scratches produced by a rotary wire brush. The sculpture rests on the base at the tip of the left flank and at two points on the right, at the back and at the front, separated by a shallow arch (fig.5).
Making the sculpture
Although the smooth exterior of Tate’s sculpture does not show any trace of Moore’s modelling techniques, the interior of the helmet does reveal the texture of the plasticine (fig.9). Once Moore was satisfied with the surface finish of the sculpture and was sure that he wanted to proceed with the casting process, it would have been sent to a professional foundry to be cast in bronze. Although Helmet Head and Shoulders is not stamped with a foundry mark, records held at the Henry Moore Foundation note that the sculpture was cast at the Art Bronze Foundry in London, which Moore had previously employed to cast his maquettes for Madonna and Child in 1943 (see Tate N05600). It is likely that Moore first came into contact with the foundry when he was Head of the Sculpture Department at Chelsea College of Art in the 1930s because it was located close to the college and was used regularly by staff and students.
Sources and development
Moore’s first three-dimensional work to take the form of a helmet and combine interior and exterior forms was a lead sculpture titled The Helmet 1939–40 (fig.12). For this work Moore enclosed a form made up of arches and ellipses, which may bear analogy to a standing figure, within a domed shelter. Although the art historian Julian Stallabrass has argued that Moore’s helmet head sculptures ‘have a very definite relation to the war’, this work can also be viewed in light of Moore’s interest in the mother and child motif.11 In 1967 Moore acknowledged that this compositional arrangement related to ‘the Mother and Child where the other form, the mother, is protecting the inner form, the child’.12 Furthermore, the German psychologist Erich Neumann argued in 1959 that in the helmet head sculptures ‘the head itself becomes the sheltering uterus’.13
Although a lack of material resources halted Moore’s sculptural practice during the Second World War, in 1950 he returned once again to the helmet head motif with Helmet Head No.1 1950 (fig.13). However, according to Neumann, when Moore returned to the theme after the war he dispensed with the mother and child symbolism of his pre-war sculpture. Instead, Neumann argued, ‘the motif of the diving helmet, the crash helmet, and the gas mask, all of which convert the human face into something strange and inhuman, has here been wrought into a new and sinister form of death’s-head’.14 Neumann regarded the helmet heads of 1950 as figures from a mechanistic world, in strong contrast to Moore’s figurative sculptures based on organic forms. He suggested that they have a parallel in the ‘Openwork Heads’ of the same year, although in these sculptures a lattice-work shell encloses the interior void (see fig.14). For Neumann, Moore’s ‘Openwork Heads’ presented the head:
Exhibition and interpretation
The Henry Moore Gift
How to cite
Alice Correia, ‘Helmet Head and Shoulders 1952, cast date unknown by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, October 2013, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www