Constantin Brancusi, ‘Danaïde’ c.1918
Constantin Brancusi
Danaïde c.1918
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021

Danaïdes is a name that the sculptor gave to a number of heads derived from actual portraits. It refers to the mythological daughters of Danaus who killed their husbands on their wedding nights and were condemned to Hades, destined forever to draw water from a well with a sieve. The myth combines beauty and cruelty in a way that recalls Brancusi’s continued fascination with late nineteenth century Symbolism.

Among the most remarkable of the works gathered here is Abstract Head 1910-25. It is one of the rare surviving marble pieces that Brancusi totally reworked. In its original form it had the stylised features evident on the bronze Danaïde c.1913, also in this room. However, during the early 1920s he decided to refine the facial features to reveal the essential mass of the head.