Lot 209
  • 209

Manolo Valdés

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Manolo Valdés
  • Bailarina
  • wood and iron
  • 185.4 by 124.5 by 99.1cm.; 73 by 49 by 39in.
  • Executed in 1996.


Galeria Freites, Caracas
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate. Condition: This work is in very good and original condition. There is some light oxidisation to the iron and some superficial surface dirt in the recesses. Close inspection reveals a few small woodworm holes scattered in places.
"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

“I am just a narrator who comments on the history of painting in various ways, using new materials: it is like a game that consists of changing the code and the key to the artwork.... Many of my colours, materials and textures are the product of relived experiences of other masters.” (Manolo Valdés quoted in Exhibition Catalogue, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Valdés 1981-2006, 2006, p. 21)

A magnificent example of Manolo Valdés’ signature concern with the legacy of the great classical masters, Bailarina is characterised by a unique approach to volume and materiality that has become the defining quality of the Spanish artist’s commanding large scale sculptures. The present work, made out of wood, exemplifies Valdés’ masterful appropriation of Diego Velázquez’s 1656 masterpiece Las Meninas, which is indicated by the figure’s popular seventeenth century hairstyle, resembling that of the Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain. Velázquez remained an enduring point of reference for many modern artists, including Edouard Manet and Francis Bacon. In 1957, Picasso undertook a comprehensive analysis and reinterpretation of Velázquez’s historical work, dedicating a series of 58 paintings to the subject, now displayed in their entirety at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.

Valdés combines such allusion to the Spanish master with an iconic image of late nineteenth century art, the ballerina. The subject is a keystone in the iconography of European art: Edgar Degas is known above all as the artist of the ballet who, together with Jean-Louis Forain and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, explored the vast tonal, graphic, and stylistic possibilities offered by the subject matter. The dancers' delicate yet powerful displays of human motion, their sophisticated and rarefied range of movements, as well as their feminine clothing, have provided a constant and diverse source of inspiration for all of these artists. While Bailarina deliberately departs from Lautrec’s graphically precise approach or Degas’ focus on the figure’s facial expression, the presence of both artists is nevertheless felt throughout Valdés’ idiosyncratic composition.

Reduced to basic bodily form, and simultaneously removed from any sense of historical context, the dancer is here presented in a way that does not merely imitate the works of past masters, but rather confronts their historical legacy with new possibilities. It is perhaps Lautrec’s later works, in which he expresses an interest towards the individuality of each dancer that most powerfully resonates with Valdés’s Bailarina, as both take this conventional figure and place her in equivocal poses and surroundings, questioning the viewer’s initial assumptions and demanding a deeper visual and psychological consideration. Degas’s fervent exploration of movement and the material harmony of the body are also especially prevalent here, conveyed most clearly through the sculpture’s pose, as if frozen in time – mid-soutenu - with one arm elevated and the billowing skirt. By augmenting the figure's scale and minimising its details, particularly with regards to the face, Valdés creates an abstract expression blended with a pop aesthetic, which further places the subject into a contemporary setting. What is ultimately achieved is thus an exceptional and triumphant affirmation of the reality of an object that extends beyond its volume, asserting Valdés’ vast understanding of art history and reconfigured historical trajectory, making him at once an artist and art historian in his own right.