Lot 35
  • 35

Joseph Csaky

150,000 - 200,000 EUR
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  • Joseph Csaky
  • Unique Tête, 1923
  • rock crystal and obsidian
  • 34,1 x 10 x 10 cm ; 13 3/8 x 4 x 4 in.
rock crystal and obsidian


Acquired directly from the artist
Collection of Jacques Doucet and thence by descent


Paris, Musée Galliera, Fastes et décors de la vie parisienne de 1909 à 1929, June-August 1957
London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Art Deco, 1910-1930, March 27 - July 20 2003
Paris, Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Jacques Doucet-Yves Saint Laurent, vivre pour l'Art, October 15, 2015 - February 14, 2016


"Un temple de l'art moderne, l'appartement de M.J.D.", Femina, February 1925, p. 30
"Objets d'art présentés par Pierre Legrain", L'Art international d'Aujourd'hui, vol. 11, Paris, 1929, pl. 48
Fastes et décors de la vie parisienne de 1909 à 1929, exhibition catalogue, Musée Galliera, Paris, June-August 1957, n. 51
"Verra-t-on reparaître le goût 1920-1930 ?", Maison & Jardin, December 1961, p. 110
Theodore Menten, The Art Deco Style in Household Objects, Architecture, Sculpture, Graphics, Jewelry, New York, 1972, p. 107
Art Deco, 1910-1930, exhibition catalogue, Victoria and Albert Museum, March 27 - July 20, 2003, p. 105, n. 9.8
Félix Marcilhac, Joseph Csaky, Paris, 2007, pp. 87 and 330
Félix Marcilhac, Gustave Miklos, Joseph Csaky, Budapest, 2010, p. 91
Jacques Doucet-Yves Saint Laurent, vivre pour l'Art, exhibition catalogue, Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris, October 15, 2015 - February 14, 2016, p. 35 in a period photograph and p. 88
Chantal Georgel et al., Jacques Doucet, Collectionneur et mécène, Paris, 2016, p. 120


FR : Bon état général. La tête a subi un dommage entre 1925 et 1927 qui a fait l'objet d'une restauration à l'époque : un petit disque de cristal recollé à la base de la tête sur le côté droit invisible sauf quelques rares petites traces de colle ancienne. Juste derrière, petits manques de cristal à la jonction de la tête et du cou, d'époque. La tige reliant la tête a la base, en plexiglass, a été changée pour être moins visible et se confond avec la masse du cristal de roche. Sur la base : petit choc à l'angle supérieur droit en façade et sur la tranche supérieure du bloc à gauche de la plaque d'obsidienne. Manque d'origine sur le le côté droit au niveau de la tâche brune. La tête et la base sont deux éléments différents. La hauteur totale est de 34,1 cm, la hauteur de la base seulement est de 10 cm, la hauteur de la tête seulement est de 24 cm. ////////// EN : Good overall condition. The head has been damaged between 1925 and 1927 and was restored at the time of the damage : a small disc of crystal has been re-glued to the base of the head on the right side. This restoration is almost invisble apart from a few light traces of old glue. Right behind, minor lacks of crystal at the junction of the head and the neck, all of them dating back to 1925-1927. The stem between the head and the base, in fiberglass, has been changed to be less visible and is barely visible within the crystal. On the base : a small dent on the upper right front corner and on the upper edge of the base (to the left side of the obsidian). Original lacks on the right side around the brown mark. The head and the base are two different element. The height of 34,1 cm is the total height (head + base). The height of the base only is 10 cm - the height of the head only is 24 cm
"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

A stone version is in the permanent collection of the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands, accession number 43-23.

Tête by Joseph Csaky

Joseph Csaky was a Hungarian who moved to Paris in 1909. He had briefly studied at the Academy of Applied Arts in Budapest and then trained in stonemasonry while working on construction sites. He was one of the first artists to apply the principles of cubism to sculpture. When the war ended, he was signed by the gallery of Léonce Rosenberg, an art dealer who took a keen interest in his work and saw him as one of the major sculptors of his time.
Doucet probably discovered his work at the gallery. In 1921 he purchased a stone head of a woman, and then commissioned several works from Csaky from 1923 onwards. It was during this period that Csaky began to soften the geometric, nested shapes of his sculptures and shift towards gentler, purer lines.
Our sculpted head was the first work that Jacques Doucet commissioned, installing it in his Avenue du Bois apartment and then moving it to his studio in Neuilly with the other jewels of his collection. Displayed on a Legrain cabinet whose central panel was carved by Miklos, it is flanked by Miklos’s bronze and lacquer Bêtes Affrontées (Sotheby's Paris, Ginette et Alain Lesieutre, June 29, 2017). Other works by Csaky joined the collection at that time, such as the bas-reliefs he designed for the staircase. He also sculpted a stone model of a lion’s head for a home in Marly le Roi that was never built.

He carved an initial stone version of the head in 1922, which can now be found at the Kroller-Müller Museum in Otterlo (Netherlands). Our head is one of the rare pieces that Csaky sculpted from rock crystal. The only other known pieces in this material are a few small animals exhibited by the decorator Marcel Coard, and later on a peacock for Madame Solvay (in the former Félix Marcilhac collection sold by Sotheby's Paris, March 11 and 12, 2014).
The use of rock crystal adds purity to the perfectly oval face, which has no features or expression and whose ears are merely suggested by two stylised rectangles. The artist has used a decorative technique that harks back to Antiquity, with a frieze of small engraved and gilded circles in the hair and coif giving a sense of opulence. An obsidian triangle on the coif and an element embedded in the square base serve as deep black counterpoints that materialise this otherwise entirely translucent piece.
A detailed comparison of photographs taken at Avenue du Bois and then later in Neuilly show that the work was changed in between the two. The base appears to have been turned, with the black block having initially been at the back of the base and not at the front below the chin. This may have been done at Jacques Doucet’s request, to accentuate the contours of the work and give it more presence. Doucet was known to regularly request changes from his artists.
In Jacques Doucet’s studio, our head echoes another, “Sleeping Muse 2” in polished bronze by Constantin Brancusi, also dated 1923, arranged on a carved wooden cushion on the floor. It has the same pure lines and references to primitivism.

Csaky’s rock crystal head is at once a portrait of an idol from ancient times past and an icon of early Art Deco sculpture with echoes of modern sculpture.