1884-1920 | ItalianTête de cariatide
Head of Caryatid
Signed “Modigliani” and numbered “1/8” (near base)
The figural works of the iconic modernist Amedeo Modigliani are known for their instantly recognizable style, and they are among the most coveted in the world of art collecting, with Modigliani ranking among the world’s ten most valuable artists of all time. This monumental bronze, conceived by the artist in 1910, demonstrates his mastery of sculpture. Sculpting was the artist’s self-proclaimed first and true passion — a fact sometimes overlooked due to the success of his paintings and the overwhelming rarity of his sculptures. His famed Tête
series from which this bronze hails stands as his most important sculptural output, with works recognized for their timeless quality and strong, stoic presence. Tête de cariatide
reflects these qualities and provides a compelling glimpse into Modigliani’s greatest artistic passion.
This bronze is an enlarged casting of a wooden sculpture — the only known sculpture that Modigliani carved in wood rather than stone. Commissioned posthumously by Modigliani’s daughter Jeanne alongside the Modigliani Institute, the bronze iteration here perfectly captures the rich woodgrain texture of Modigliani’s original carving and retains its careful compositional balance. Soulful and intense, it reflects the exaggerated yet elegant elongation of the artist’s figural paintings, which became his much sought-after signature style.
Modigliani’s interest in African and other non-Western art is well-documented. This bronze is reminiscent of a tribal mask or ancient deity, both due to its exaggerated features and the totemic appearance achieved by the work’s texture, meditative presence and sheer size. Yet the work also alludes to the artist’s Italian heritage and training. A caryatid
is a staple of classical architecture, an ornate column typically found on the façade of a temple that takes the form of a female figure, with the most famous examples being on the Acropolis of Athens. The present sculpture exudes the same striking, memorable quality.
Born in Livorno, Italy in 1884, Modigliani dreamed of becoming a sculptor from a young age when he first encountered the grand marbles of Michelangelo. He moved to Paris in 1906, but it was not until 1909 after meeting modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi that he began carving figures. For a time, he devoted himself almost entirely to sculpting, completing very few paintings between 1911 and 1914 but producing several sketches and gouaches relating to his sculptural projects. Modigliani exhibited a series of his sculptures in the 1912 Salon d'Automne.
Among the reasons Modigliani’s work is so highly sought after is the fact that the artist died at the premature age of 35, limiting his entire lifetime production to under 400 total artworks. Within that number, his sculptures are exceedingly rare; he only created around twenty-six total, most of which are held in museums such as the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Tate Gallery (London).
Modigliani suffered from tubercular meningitis his entire life, which ultimately limited his ability to continue to pursue the physical and laborious art of sculpting, emphasizing this bronze’s importance and rarity with the artist's oeuvre.
The other editions of this series can be found in public collections worldwide, including Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the exterior of the Casa Natale Modigliani in Rome, which houses the Modigliani Institut archives.
Conceived in 1910
Bears the foundry mark of Paolo Olmeda as well as the artist’s signature and edition number “1/8”
24" wide x 34" deep x 90" high
Base: 35 3/4" wide x 45 3/4" deep x 28" high