Lot 146
  • 146

Jean Metzinger

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Jean Metzinger
  • signed Metzinger (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 73 by 50.2cm., 28 3/4 by 19 5/8 in.


Robert Gleizes
D'Autretsch, The Hague
Sale: Christie's, London, 5th December 1978, lot 44
Purchased at the above sale by the family of the present owner


Iowa City, The University of Iowa Museum of Art; Austin, Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas; Chicago, The David & Alfred Smart Gallery, The University of Chicago & Pittsburgh, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, 1985, no. 154, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Susanna Mediavilla (ed.), El Cubismo y sus Entornos en las Colecciones de Telefónica, (exhibition catalogue), Madrid, 2004, Illustrated in colour p. 228


The canvas is strip-lined and has a wax resin layer applied to the reverse of the canvas. There is a series of thin intermittent lines of retouching corresponding to the craquelure pattern in the upper quarter of the composition within the blue and black pigments, a small area of retouching in the yellow pigment on the lower framing edge, a small area of retouching in the yellow pigment at the upper right corner of the composition and four 2cm. vertical parallel lines of retouching within the lower right quadrant. All retouching is visible under UV light. There is a thin vertical line of fluorescence within the 'M' of the signature, visible under UV light, but the nature of the fluorescence is not consistent with other retouchings and hence it may well be the artist's pigment. Apart from some light craquelure, mainly to the upper right of the canvas, and a slightly uneven varnish, this work is 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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Jean Metzinger played a key role in the establishment of a distinct Cubist movement, centred on the group of artists associated with the Section d'Or. The Section d'Or was the first artistic grouping to define a form of Cubist painting which did not conform to the narrow style of Cubism established by Picasso and Braque – one which employed the de-constructive techniques and geometric compositions of both artists, without restriction to their limited repertoire of subjects or definition by the more esoteric categories of Analytical or Synthetic Cubism and its associated approaches to the pictorial object. Metzinger exhibited in the pivotal Salon des Indépendants of 1911 alongside Robert Delaunay (fig. 1), Henri Le Fauconnier, Albert Gleizes and Fernand Léger and, in the following months, published a series of interviews and magazine articles defining the Cubist style.

In Du Cubisme, a treatise published with Albert Gleizes in 1912, Metzinger proclaimed: 'To establish pictorial space, we must have recourse to tactile and motor sensations, indeed to all our faculties. It is our whole personality which, contracting or expanding, transforms the plane of the picture. As it reacts, this plane reflects the personality back upon the understanding of the spectator, and thus pictorial space is defined: a sensitive passage between two subjective spaces. The forms which are situated within this space spring from a dynamism which we profess to dominate. In order that our intelligence may possess it, let us first exercise our sensitivity. There are only nuances. Form appears endowed with properties identical to those of colour. It is tempered or augmented by contact with another form, it is destroyed or it flowers, it is multiplied or it disappears' (translated in Robert L. Herbert (ed.), Modern Artists on Art, New York, 1986, p. 8).

The present work, Le Château, is a powerful embodiment of the principles established in this treatise. In contrast with the Cubist style of Braque and Picasso, equal importance is attributed to form and colour as expressive elements within the composition - no one subjugates the other. The resulting image conveys the extraordinary force of volume which Metzinger creates; form is both contained within the composition by flat areas of modulated colour, whilst springing forth from the centre, out from the picture plane. Painted in 1918, the present work reflects Metzinger's developing interest in the use of pattern and decorative detail. The flat areas populated with black and white dots re-assert the flatness of the picture plane, enhancing the dynamism of the forms surrounding them.

Fig. 1, Robert Delaunay, Les Tours de Laon, 1912, oil on canvas, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris