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Details & Cataloguing

American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture

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Gaston Lachaise
1882 - 1935
MASK OF MARIE PIERCE
inscribed G. Lachaise with copyright and dated 1925 on the reverse
nickel-plated bronze on a 4 in. black Belgian marble base
Height: 6 3/4 in.
17.2 cm.
Cast in 1925
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Provenance

C.W. Kraushaar Galleries, New York, 1925
Charles Henry Coster, New York, 1925-1977
Estate of Charles Henry Coster, New York, 1977-1978
(Sale:  Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, May 19, 1978, lot 352)

Exhibited

Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, A Selection of Twentieth Century Three-Dimensional Portraits:  An Exhibition, 1984-1985, cat. p. 10, illustrated
Washington, DC, National Portrait Gallery, Gaston Lachaise, Portrait Sculpture, November 22, 1985- February 16, 1986, cat. p. 69, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Gaston Lachaise's Mask of Marie Pierce, a hollow-backed relief, was developed in 1925 from a bust-length portrait of Marie Pierce (1886-1967)--the niece of his wife, Isabel Dutaud Nagle (1872-1957)--that he had made in 1921 (Private collection). In 1918, Marie's eight-year-old son, Yanchu, had died suddenly, and while sitting for her portrait several years later, her countenance reflected her sustained mourning. Lachaise's interest in the expressive power of masks is documented in a letter of 1910 to Isabel in which he referred to "the Greek masks of tragedies that actors used to wear in order to surpass the possibilities of the human face" (Lachaise Papers, The Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library). When he took up the theme in 1925, he clearly conceived the relief as a modern mask of tragedy, a means both to epitomize Marie's emotional response to the death of her young son and to distill her haunting beauty: it is said that he "considered her the most beautiful woman he had ever known" (Carolyn Kinder Carr and Margaret C. S. Christman, "Gaston Lachaise, Portrait Sculpture," Washington, D. C., 1985, p. 64).

According to Lachaise, seven bronze casts of Mask of Marie Pierce were sold in 1925. Casts bearing a copyright date of 1927 were also issued by him. The present example, which belongs to the earlier group, is one of six nickel-plated casts that have been located over the past thirty years; the other five are owned by private collectors. Unplated casts also exist. Three of these are known to have been cast prior to 1962. In addition, an edition of eleven bronze Estate casts lacking nickel plate was initiated by the Lachaise Foundation, Boston; two examples have been made.

Mask of Marie Pierce has been given the number 122 by the Lachaise Foundation, Boston.

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

American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture

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New York