ProvenanceGalerie Maeght-Lelong, Paris
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, May 10, 1989, lot 441
LiteratureA. Jouffroy and J. Teixidor, Miró Sculptures, Paris, 1973, p. 202, no. 153 (plaster version illustrated, p. 153)
E.F. Miró and P.O. Chapel, Joan Miró: Sculptures, Catalogue Raisonne´, 1928-1982, Paris, 2006, p. 184, no. 182 (another cast illustrated)
When Miró remarked to his friend Alexander Calder, “I am an established painter but a young sculptor,” it was direct acknowledgment he had much to learn working with three-dimensional form. After all, Miró had devoted the entirety of his first 53 years to the decidedly unpainterly-paintings with their organic-like forms, flattened picture planes drawn in sharp delineations for which he fundamentally known. But the comment was also accompaniment to the fact he did not turn his attention to producing sculpture in bronze until 1946. Either way, sculpting and casting in bronze attracted a lion’s share of his attention the last four decades of his life. The bronzes in particular represent a substantial contribution to any appraisal of his impressive oeuvre and ultimately invigorated Miró during these later years. The endeavor reminded him of his earliest times when he was excitedly processing information and discovering his unique language of expression that André Breton characterized as ‘the purest Surrealism of us all.’
Tête de femme is based upon one of Miró’s most utilized themes. He characterized his sculptures as being from the ‘truly phantasmagoric world of living’ which is, undoubtedly, intended as a term of endearment. Yet Tête de femme seems to evince something less monstrous or grotesque and instead presents in more sobering light as a free-standing, monolithic presence suggesting essential nature, if not a monumental one. Its attributions are fixed, intrinsic, and suggestive of its innateness; a strikingly austere design that adheres to Miró’s resistance to a classic bourgeois concept of ideal beauty. While it does not suggest a simple ‘female figure’ designation, there is plenty of referential material in the curves, domed protrusions, and a central depression suggesting a birthing matrix that in sum, evokes a celebration of fecundity and the creation of life. In any event, any tether to representational reality is a tenuous one, yet one that is calculated to stimulate the imagination and evoke unconscious primordial references and long-forgotten mythologies.
Other than Picasso, Miró is verily unmatched in his versatility and ability to master every medium he tried. From painting and murals to printmaking, sculpture and ceramics, costume design and poetry, it is no surprise that creative intensity would transfigure to an equally intense involvement in any collaborative efforts. In working with Susse Fondeur, a foundry renowned for their polished patina and dark, lustrous surface values, he had a collaborator for which he had great admiration and affection and could meet his high standards. Because of its broad and expansive flat surface areas, Tête de femme (Déesse) must be considered among the finest examples demonstrating that reputation for unparalleled technique, finesse and attention to detail. Here, the process of which has been carried forward with absolute precision. Gilders, for example, know from experience that gold leaf, easily laid upon flourished surfaces, is expediently more difficult to apply to an unforgiving flat plane such as mirror-like surface that reveals the slightest misstep. Tête de femme is a tour de force in this regard and a fantastic example of the benefits of collaborative effort. Doubtless, Susse Fondeur was as proud of its accomplishment here as Miró was in his satisfaction that the result matched his envisioning. Likely, he viewed this lustrous surface as fair compensation for its absence of color for which he is so well known. The impression is one that never suggests the sculptures of Miró are in any way derived from his painting, yet nor are they a complete deviation from that form of expression. Ultimately, it provides strong evidence that Miró was as engaged and involved in an intense dialogue with free-standing form as he ever was as a younger man working as a painter.
Tête de femme is cast in an edition of four, one of which was installed at the Yorkshire Sculpture Garden 2012 landmark exhibition Miró: Sculptor.
Miró in his studio c. 1956
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), “Bather with Beach Ball”, Boisgeloup, August 30, 1932, oil on canvas, 57 7/8 x 45 1/8 in., Museum of Modern Art, New York
Joan Miró (1883-1983), “Woman”, 1934, pastel on flocked paper, 42 x 48 in., Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art
“Tête de femme (Déesse)”, 1970, bronze, 54 x 35 x 29 in., Installed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, U.K.
- The graph by Art Market Research shows that in the last 20 years, sculptures by Miró have increased at an 11.2% annual rate of return
- The record price for a Miró sculpture at auction was set in 2015 when La Porte (Objet), 1931 – a much earlier example in a different medium and style – sold for over $13.4 million USD
- A bronze sculpture comparable in size, year, and style, Femme (Femme debout) from 1969, sold in 2013 for over $9.8 million USD