During Christie’s Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on next May 15th in NY it will be offered also a great masterpiece by the Romanian modernist sculptor and great formal innovator Constantin Brancusi’s, La Jeune fille sophistiquée (Nancy Cunard), 1932. Estimate $70m, this Brancusi is a very unique and rare sculpture, almost unseen, cast in polished bronze in Paris in 1932. Indeed, it comes from the collection of Elizabeth Stafford and her husband Frederick Stafford who bought the work directly from Brancusi during a visit to his studio in 1955.
In fact, in 1955, at a friend’s suggestion, budding collectors, Elizabeth and Frederick Stafford visited Brancusi’s studio for their first time, and they were astounded by the beauty of his work. Mr. Stafford, who had emigrated from Romania in the 1930’s, also saw Brancusi as a fellow Romanian, and he returned to his studio the next day and purchased La Jeune fille sophistiquée as a 28th birthday gift for Mrs. Stafford. Over lasts 62 years, the Staffords generously loaned it to prominent institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, Centre Georges Pompidou and New Orleans Museum of Art, among others.
This is an extraordinarily rare and very important work, as just almost unseen until now, but foremost as the only existing bronze example of Brancusi’s stylized portrait of the Anglo-American heiress and writer Nancy Cunard, whose charm truly captured Brancusi admiration.
Indeed, Brancusi met her in 1923 through the Dada poet Tristan Tzara, one of her many paramours. The profoundly iconoclastic heiress, who openly flouted sexual, racial, class, and national boundaries, struck Brancusi as the very embodiment of the liberated Twenties, a figure of and for the moment. “Everything about the way she behaved,” he recalled, “showed how truly sophisticated she was for her day.”
Actually, Cunard never posed for this Brancusi’s sculpture, and it was almost realized on her unblocknowst until many years later, when she finally found out that he had sculpted a figure that bore her name. However, with superbly distilled volumes, Brancusi succeeded in capturing Cunard’s elegance and stylized presentation, creating a precise, individualized characterization that simultaneously transcends the particular personality to arrive at a universal, essential form.
Conor Jordan, Deputy Chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art, New York, remarked: “A daring and exquisite work of art, the Brancusi from The Collection or Elizabeth Stafford represents one of the vanishingly small number of the artist’s bronzes with its original carved base not in a museum collection. Its appearance on the market will be an exciting event for the world’s foremost collectors of Modern art.”
In fact , another very special feature of this rare piece is that the work is one of the very few examples retains the artist’s original hand-carved marble base, a factor of immense significance given the importance Brancusi attached to the interaction between materials and the interplay between his sculptural subjects and the pedestals upon which he placed them.
This Fall, Christie’s will continue to celebrate the Stafford collection, selling the exceptional and diversified collection, that ranged from Old Master and Impressionist pictures to antiquities and 18th century French furniture. Further details will be released at a later date.