Lot 20
  • 20

Jean Arp

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Jean Arp
  • Squelette d'oiseau
  • Signed with the monogram, inscribed Susse Fondeur, Paris and numbered 1/3 on the interior
  • Bronze
  • Height: 42.2 in.
  • 107 cm


Marguerite Arp-Hagenbach, Clamart (until 1969)

Galerie d'Art Moderne, Basel

Stephen Mazoh, New York (sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 17, 1978, lot 85)

Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman


Basel, Galerie d'Art Moderne, Sculptures, 1972-73, illustrated in the catalogue


Carola Giedion-Welcker, Jean Arp, 1957, no. 85, illustration of the smaller version

Herbert Read, The Art of Jean Arp, 1968, no. 171, illustration in color of the smaller version p. 145

50 Jahre Kunsthandels verband der Schweiz (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1973, no. 88, illustration of another cast pl. 51

Jean Arp, 1886-1966, Esculturas, Relieves, Obra Sobre Papel, Tapices (exhibition catalogue), Museo Espanol de Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid, 1985, no. 11, illustration of another cast p. 108

Arp, 1886-1966 (exhibition catalogue), Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, 1986, no. 186, illustration of another cast p. 193

Serge Fauchereau, Arp, New York, 1988, no. 85, another cast illustrated in color p. 72-73

Sophie Taeuber-Hans Arp (exhibition catalogue), Kunstmuseum, Bern, 1988, no. 114, illustration of another cast p. 199

Jean Arp, L'invention de la forme (exhibition catalogue), Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 2004, illustration of another cast p. 146

Arie Hartog & Kai Fischer, Jean Arp, Sculptures, A Critical Survey, Bonn, 2012, no. 85a, illustration of another cast p. 98


Please contact the Impressionist and Modern Art Department at (212) 606-7360 for the condition report for this lot.
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

Squelette d’oiseau is a beautiful example of Arp's mature style, executed at the time when his work achieved a formal purity and a high level of abstraction. Its elegant, elongated form is subtly evocative of a bird, while its simplicity and a smooth, polished surface transcends the organic, embodying the purist physical beauty that is the hallmark of Arp’s most successful sculptures. The transcendental quality of his late sculpture bears strong stylistic, technical and poetic affinities with the work of Constantin Brancusi. As Stephanie Poley observed: "Arp was concerned with purity, with being free, being independent of everything unpleasant and limiting, and with the active, constant emission of positive energy as well as its perception" (S. Poley in Arp [exhibition catalogue], Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1987, p. 229). The spiritual element of Arp's ideology is reflected here in the image of the winged, almost otherworldly figure.

Guided by chance and intuition, the artist often created organic, irregular shapes evocative of natural forms and parts of human or animal anatomy. Although he developed a highly abstract visual vocabulary, in his sculptures Arp always established a connection between these biomorphic forms and elements of the natural world in such a way as to unveil the mysterious and poetic elements hidden in everyday forms. Arp always enjoyed seeing his sculptures in natural settings, evidenced by his large carvings placed in the garden outside his studio, where they could merge into the landscape and become one with nature.

Arp’s interest in man, nature, art and sculptural forms that evoked and blended the three is of paramount importance to his oeuvre. Arp wrote: “Art is a fruit that grows in man like a fruit on a plant or a child in its mother’s womb” (quoted in ibid., p. 260). At the heart of Arp’s success is the organic beauty of his sculptures, which seem to manifest from a vision unencumbered by formal restraints. In 1944 Max Ernst wrote, “Arp’s hypnotic language takes us back to a lost paradise, to cosmic secrets and teaches us to understand the language of the universe” (quoted in ibid., p. 261).

According to Arie Hartog and Kai Fischer's critical survey of Arp's sculpture, the present work, which was cast in 1968, belongs to an edition of four bronzes, numbered 0/3-3/3.