Lot 6
  • 6

Henry Moore, O.M., C.H.

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Henry Moore OM, CH
  • Maquette for Three Piece No.3: Vertebrae
  • signed, numbered 2/9  and stamped with H. NOACK BERLIN foundry mark
  • polished bronze with light brown patina
  • height (including base): 10cm.; 4in.
  • Conceived in 1968, the present work is number 2 from an edition of 9.


Marlborough Fine Art, London, where acquired by present owner, 13th June 1969


Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore Complete Sculpture 1964-73, vol. 4 , Lund Humpries, London, 1977, LH 578, illustrated p.51 (another cast).


Dirt has gathered in some of the crevices. There are three extremely tiny surface marks to the patination, two to the top of the form on the right and one to the top of the form on the left. Otherwise, the sculpture is in very good overall condition. Please telephone the department on 020 7293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Maurice Cooke was passionate about the work of Henry Moore and in July 2007, wrote about the present work:

Vertebrae is one of the most important works of the last twenty years of Moore's life. It exists in four versions - as a maquette at 7 inches, as working model, 90 inches, as full scale at 20 feet (fig.1) and in Dallas, U.S.A., in front of the City Hall at 40 feet. Its importance can be judged from the number of photographs in books on Moore: 15 in the Lund Humphries volumes on Moore plus one on the dust cover of Vol 4. It is also on the dust cover of 'With Henry Moore' by Gemma Levine, and the Henry Moore Foundation booklet 'Sculpture in the Open Air at Perry Green' shows it five times. 

The piece was inspired by the happy conjuncture of two flints, which suggested the joints of the human body, and being arranged in a series, a backbone, hence the title. Moore argued that when one divided a figure into two, each part confronted the other, but dividing it into three produced a series. Vertebrae is a series: yet the parts do confront each other, and vigorously. Moore divided his figures partly to maximise change as one walked around them; and so, as at the Lincoln Centre (Reclining Figure, LH 519), he made the parts strongly contrasting. In the present work, he does the opposite. Until one looks closely, the three parts look the same (they are variations on a theme) yet the changes from different angles are great. The interaction between the solid forms, the spaces they shape, and the ever-changing contours they create, are as complex as the interweaving of themes in a Bach fugue.

Moore said of the Dallas version, 'It may seem to some people abstract but it's not at all. It's all organic form'. What did he mean? The parts don't look human, nor like animals. But they are alive, they throb with vitality, they struggle with each other. At a closer look, the part at each end can suggest the upper half of a human body, aggressive, flourishing fists. The middle form is tipped over so that one fist becomes a head, the torso a limb so bursting with inner pressure as to imply sexual excitement, while the fist punches the other form in the midriff. The third form hurries to join the fray.

Moore always saw life as a struggle and here he epitomizes it. Vertebrae symbolizes the competitive and combative instincts of Man.