The auction consignments keep rolling in. After Sotheby’s and Phillips revealed possible record-breakers in the realm of contemporary yesterday, Christie’s has announced a major lot that could lead its Impressionist and modern evening sale this May. A 1913 bronze cast of Constantin Brancusi’s La muse endormie—the original was carved in marble in 1909–10 and now resides with the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.—will be on offer with a low estimate of $20 million and a high estimate of $30 million.
If it hits its high estimate, it will beat the Brancusi record that was set in 2005, when Bird in Space (1923) sold for $27.5 million at Christie’s. At the time, it was the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction.
The bronze cast is an edition of six, but only one more is still in private hands, with the other four in institutions. The Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York each have one of the six editions, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris has two. (The other edition in private hands was last sold in 1972, when it was up for auction and sold for a mere £71,400.)
Here’s a bit more background of the Brancusi, courtesy a press release:
La muse endormie is the first in Brancusi’s series of egg-shaped sculptures, marking the inception of the artist’s mature work and his first foray into abstraction. The form of a sleeping woman’s head has been distilled into an almost perfect oval, the purity of outline marked only by subtle allusions to the physical features of the model.
Brancusi was in his early thirties when he conceived this breakthrough sculpture; he had arrived in Paris from his native Romania in 1904 at the age of twenty-eight. From his earliest years in Paris, Brancusi had been fascinated by the theme of sleep. Between 1906 and 1908, he sculpted several heads of sleeping women and children, all of which retain the descriptive naturalism that he had learned from Auguste Rodin as a pointing technician in his studio.
We’ll see what happens when it hits the block at the Christie’s New York salesroom on May 15.