Lot 224
  • 224

Jenny Saville

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
509,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jenny Saville
  • Study for Isis and Horus
  • signed and dated 2011
  • pastel and charcoal on paper
  • 198.1 by 147.3 cm. 78 by 58 in.


Gagosian Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York


New York, Gagosian Gallery, Continuum, September - October 2011, p. 36, illustrated in colour (detail), p. 39 and p. 114, illustrated in colour
Oxford, Modern Art Oxford, Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Jenny Saville, June - September 2012, n.p., illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Made-up of a remarkably technically astute fusion of painterly pastel sweeps, charcoal nebulae and a vortex of crisp drawn lines, Study for Isis and Horus is a commanding example of Jenny Saville’s practice.

Executed a few years after Saville had her first-born, a son, in 2007, and her daughter the next year, the present work illustrates the intimacy of motherhood in a candid, refreshingly non-idealised manner. The body of a naked woman - perhaps Saville herself - clutching her two turbulent infants is superimposed over a depiction of the Egyptian deity Isis and her son Horus. Predating the Christian iconography of the Madonna and Child, an image Saville had assimilated from an early age having stared at her parents’ poster of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Virgin and Child with St Anne and John the Baptist” throughout her childhood, Isis here depicted as a mother/goddess mirrors our own feelings and expectations towards pregnancy and motherhood. 

Usually concerned with rendering huge expanses of flesh and skin in striking detail, Saville’s superimposition of the fetishised and realistic representations of a mother in the present work continues the artist’s long-standing intention to reclaim the female body. Customarily a site onto which fantasies and unattainable ideals of beauty are projected, notably in art with the tradition of nude painting from a male perspective, the artist’s dismorphic rendition of her own post-pregnancy body is here rendered in al its discomfort and truthfulness. 

Candidly executed with Saville’s outstanding mastery of media and colour - hues of red, blue and white blended together give the flesh a sensuous, intimate quality - Study for Isis and Horus demonstrates a powerful corporeal presence that challenges and exposes the blandness of traditional expectations of femininity: “What would beauty be, if everyone were the same?” (Jenny Saville quotes in: Sarah Kent, Shark Infested Waters, The Saatchi Collection of British Art in the 90s, London 1994, p. 84)