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Country House Sale Lot 762


†SIR JACOB EPSTEIN, KBE (1880-1959) MAQUETTE FOR THE CAVENDISH SQUARE MADONNA AND CHILD FOR THE CONVENT OF THE HOLY CHILD JESUS , LONDON lead, signed Epstein, 35cm hConceived in 1950.Provenance: Acquired in the 1970s or earlier by the late grandfather of the present vendor.Literature: Silber (E), The Sculpture of Epstein with a Complete Catalogue, Oxford 1986, pp208-209, No437 (another cast illustrated).Epstein's serene Cavendish Square Madonna and Child cast in lead is, in both senses an iconic masterpiece of 20th century British sculpture. Dating from towards the end of his life, it has been reproduced in books and articles almost as often as the young sculptor's shocking Rock Drill and other masterworks such as his Jacob and the Angel and Lucifer. The present maquette is one of an extremely small number cast in c1950-52. In the aftermath of World War Two the Sisters of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus commissioned the architect and goldsmith Louis Osman (1914-1996) to restore their bomb damaged buildings at 11-13 Cavendish Square, London. This involved a bridge linking two of the 18th century houses. A key part of Osman's conception was that there be a first rate sculpture placed on its façade as if suspended in mid-air. He stated "… if the sculpture is important then it must be given its head, like the role of a soloist in a concerto: the orchestra being like the architecture, with a solo instrument speaking its poetry, related but clear and independent…" He chose Epstein in preference to Henry Moore and John Skeaping and the 70 year old replied that he had "never had such a wonderful proposal." Both Osman and Epstein quickly sensed their collaboration would result in a masterpiece. Perhaps surprisingly the controversial non-Catholic sculptor and the nuns developed a deep sense of mutual respect and understanding, succinctly expressed in a passage from a letter he wrote to the Reverend Mother "…the reward is that I had the opportunity to do a lasting work, carrying a spiritual message to all."

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