Lot 131
  • 131

Gaston Lachaise 1882 - 1935

10,000 - 15,000 USD
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  • Gaston Lachaise
  • Drum Major of the Circus Band
  • stamped with the Lachaise Estate stamp and numbered 2/12 on the base

  • bronze, light brown patina
  • Height: 25 in. 63.5 cm.


The Lachaise Foundation, Boston, from October, 1973
Mitzi Landau, Los Angeles, from March, 1981
Acquired from the above by the present owner, January, 1984


G. Lachaise to I. Lachaise, April 13, 1934, Lachaise Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University (the model)
L. Kirstein, Diary, April 16, 1934, Lincoln Kirstein Papers, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York (the model)
V. Budny, "Musical Themes in Sculpture:  A Forceful Appeal to the 'Imaginative Reason'", Sculpture Review, vol. 57, no. 4, Winter, 2008, pp. 27, 28,  28 nn. 2-5, 29, 29 n. 6 (another example reproduced in color)


in good condition
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Drum Major for the Circus Band has been given the number 123 by the Lachaise Foundation.

Gaston Lachaise's Drum Major of the Circus Band represents a dynamic male nude in the act of leading a circus parade; held in his right hand is a remnant of the baton that is his badge of office. Like other examples of the artist's best figurative work, the statuette simultaneously evokes both an archetype and a living individual. Inspired by one of the circus performances that had an enduring fascination for the sculptor, it celebrates the vitality and fundamental force of Everyman. At the same time, the Drum Major's physical appearance, especially the distinctively shaped head and neck, is based on that of Lincoln Kirstein (1907–1996), Lachaise's friend, patron, and dedicated advocate. Kirstein sought indefatigably to secure commissions for Lachaise from wealthy collectors in his circle, and helped arrange for the Museum of Modern Art in New York to mount a solo exhibition of his work in 1935, its first retrospective for a living American sculptor, for which Kirstein also wrote the catalogue. During these years, Kirstein similarly channeled his abundant energy into such pursuits as editing the Hound and Horn  (an influential literary magazine he had helped to establish in 1927 while an undergraduate at Harvard University) and co-founding the School of American Ballet.

Kirstein is the subject of two portraits by Lachaise, both of which he had commissioned: a bust (LF 93, modeled in 1931–32; cast in bronze in 1932, School of American Ballet, Samuel B. & David Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York), and a nude statuette (LF 98, modeled in 1932; first cast in bronze in 1933, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York). He also posed for other works by Lachaise, such as The Conquest of Time and Space, a plaster bas-relief for the west portal of the Radio and Communications Hall at the Century of Progress International Exposition held in Chicago in 1933–34 (it was destroyed after the Exposition closed), and To Commemorate the Workmen of Rockefeller Center: Destruction, a limestone bas-relief of men blasting for the foundation of a building, designed between September and November 1934 for the west façade of the International Building at Rockefeller Center, New York, where it was installed in May 1935 and is still in situ.

Lachaise began sculpting the model of Drum Major around the time he attended one of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus's spectacular shows held in Madison Square Garden in March 30–April 1, 1934, and while he was chasing the second bronze cast of the portrait statuette of Kirstein (now in a private collection): the conjunction of those two experiences probably helped to form the new work. Although already completed by April 13, the model, like many others by Lachaise, was not realized in bronze during his lifetime. Embedded in part of a plaster mold at the time of his sudden death in 1935, it was salvaged from his studio by his widow, Isabel Dutaud Lachaise (1872–1957), and finally released from its shell in 1970 for its present owner, the Lachaise Foundation, Boston, which oversees the artist's estate. By then, the subject had been forgotten, most of the baton had been lost, and the bandleader was presumed to be an acrobat. The first bronze copy was made for the Lachaise Foundation in 1971. That cast is now in a private collection. The present example, the second of a projected edition of twelve—and, like the first, cast by the Modern Art Foundry in New York—is the only other bronze that has been realized up to the present time. The subject of the statuette was identified recently on the basis of documentary evidence (G. Lachaise to I. Lachaise, April 13, 1934, Lachaise Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; L. Kirstein, Diary, April 16, 1934, L. Kirstein Papers, (S) *MGZMD 123, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York; see also V. Budny, "Musical Themes in Sculpture: A Forceful Appeal to the 'Imaginative Reason,'" Sculpture Review, vol. 57, no. 4, Winter 2008, p.  27).

We are grateful to Virginia Budny for preparing the catalogue entry for this work.