a blog with cultural bulimia.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Sleeping Muse I

muse"Fascinated throughout his career by the theme of a reclining sleeping head, Constantin Brancusi refined the motif of the sleeping muse for more than a decade. In preliminary compositions such as Repose, 1906, and Sleep, 1908, he emulated Auguste Rodin's marble carvings of dreaming or contemplative female heads. But Brancusi deliberately developed a coolly dispassionate style quite unlike that of Rodin's emotionally expressionist sculptures, with their contorted poses and distraught faces. Instead, Brancusi simplified a subject into its most elemental shape, synthesizing the original figurative reference with the then new formalist discipline of abstraction.
In 1908-09, Brancusi sculpted two portraits of Baroness Renée Frachon, whose elongated oval face, thinly arched eyebrows, diminutive nose, and chignon hairstyle became the inspiration for the Hirshhorn's Sleeping Muse I. In this sculpture, Brancusi made the crucial transition from descriptive naturalism to abstract purity of form. The subtly delineated facial features do not interrupt either the contour or the surfaces of the head. Without overt reference to a body or subject, the image seems inner-directed, its pristine features and closed eyes conveying a classical sense of serene detachment and repose. The title implies the limitless realm of dreams and inspiration, while the white ovoid shape also evokes associations with an egg-a symbol for the potentialities of future life and growth. In subsequent versions, particularly two stone heads from 1917-18, Brancusi emphasized that analogy by further minimizing the descriptive details, a trend that culminated in the purely abstract ovoid Beginning of the World, 1920."
Hirshhorn Museum