Paul Manship’s Celestial Sphere, which Manship kept for his own private collection and has remained in the family of the artist to this day, was the result of years of study which began in the late 1920s when Manship’s friend, the architect, Eric Gugler, brought a five-foot glass sphere etched with constellations back to America from his travels in Germany. Manship, inspired by this sphere, was captivated by the idea of creating his own celestial globe and he endeavored, through scrupulous research, to gain a sufficient understanding of astronomy to create a correct rendering of the positions of constellations with scientific accuracy. John Manship writes, “The idea of a celestial sphere continued to haunt Manship…As was his way, Manship sought out authorities in the field. He struck up close friendships with the astronomers Clyde Fisher of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Harlow Shapley of Harvard University. He studied astronomy, made frequent visits to New York’s Hayden Planetarium, and went stargazing, often with his son, John, whom he taught to recognize the constellations. But his interest was an artist’s, not a scientist’s; what fascinated him was the mythology of the heavens—Perseus and Andromeda, Orion, and Pegasus eternally delineated by their stars” (John Manship, Paul Manship, New York, 1989, p. 138).
In addition to Manship’s rigorous study of the constellations, he also familiarized himself with cosmic mythology. Manship wrote, “The representation of the heavenly constellations is derived from Babylonia and Assyria; the Greeks and Latins added their names and gave the constellations a local significance in some cases and I have adhered as closely as possible to the ancient forms. Thus, the star, Aldebran, which represents the eye of the Taurus, dictates the character of the design, as is also the case of Regulas, the Lion’s Heart, and so with all the constellations the forms and attitudes of the figures have been made to correspond firstly with the position and the meaning of the jobs themselves, and after that the inter-relationship of the constellations was designed to create a harmonious ensemble” (Harry Rand, Paul Manship, Washington, D.C., 1989, p. 125).
Manship’s interest in mythology may have originated with his studies of Greek art. In 1909, Manship won a fellowship to study in Rome where he studied ancient sculpture. He found himself particularly inspired by the archaic Greek figures, admiring the rigorous aesthetic of these classical statues. He wrote, “…we feel the power of design, the feeling for structure in line, the harmony in the divisions of spaces and masses—the simplicity of the flesh admirably contrasted with by rich drapery, every line of which is drawn with precision” (Edwin Murtha, Paul Manship, New York, 1957, p. 12). Manship borrowed elements from these Greek prototypes, synthesizing classical sculptural traditions with his distinctly stylized modern forms to create his own unique aesthetic.
Manship began his work on the sphere by modeling constellations in clay on top of the glass sphere from Gugler. Once his work was complete, he cast the sphere with his clay moldings in plaster. This plaster version of the sphere was exhibited in 1933 at the Averell House in New York. A review of the sculpture stated, “In this chamber seen for the first time the model for the Celestial Globe that is perhaps his most exciting performance to date” (Harry Rand, Paul Manship, Washington, D.C., 1989, p. 124). Following this enthusiastic reception, Manship cast three versions of the sphere in bronze after the plaster mold. In 1934, he cast the first version, known as the Aero Memorial, which measures five feet in diameter and is installed in Logan Square in Philadelphia. Later that year, Manship cast five celestial spheres with a diameter of 1 foot 3 inches. Of these five, only two of the spheres were not perforated, including the present work, and instead were comprised of gilt bronze constellations on a rich, dark brown bronze sphere. Other examples of this version are in the collections of the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the St. Louis Art Museum in Missouri. Manship created a final version of the sphere in 1939 on a monumental scale. The sphere, which measures thirteen feet and six inches in diameter, is known as the Wilson Memorial and installed at the Palace of the United Nations in Geneva.
Celestial Sphere, one of Manship’s most ambitious sculptural endeavors, is a remarkable feat of both meticulous craftsmanship and scientific accuracy. Edwin Murtha, the noted Manship scholar, mused, “Taste, jewel-like surfaces, and vigorous forms unite some forty years of Manship’s art. He has imposed ideal decorative patterns upon nature; and human and animal forms have been endowed by him with grace that only ‘the old nonchalance of the hand’ can bestow” (Paul Manship, New York, 1957, p. 18).
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale