Lot 59
  • 59

Samia A. Halaby

30,000 - 40,000 USD
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  • Samia A. Halaby
  • Untitled (Big Michelangelo Perspective no. 162)
  • signed Samia Halaby 
  • oil on canvas
  • 118 by 140cm.; 46 1/2 by 55 1/8 in.
  • Executed in 1965.


Collection of the Artist, Kansas
Gifted directly from the above to the artist's brother
Thence by descent in 1975 


Condition: This work is in good condition. There is a small tear in lower centre and two diagonal rubbing marks on upper left centre and a very minor spot of craquelure on centre left. The stretcher marks are slightly visible only upon close inspection. There are very light stains of water drops on lower part. There is no restoration apparent when viewed under the UV light. Colour: The catalogue illustration is very accurate; but the blue is only slightly lighter in the original work.
"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

Born in Jerusalem in 1936, Samia Halaby proclaimed she was born “to the marvellous noise of revolution.” At the young age of twelve, Halaby and her family fled from their native city of  Jaffa to seek refuge in Lebanon and later, in Cincinnati, USA. Halaby enrolled at The School of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Cincinnati, and later pursued her MFA at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1963. She then held a prominent position in the Fine Arts division at the Yale School of Arts where she was the first female professor. After ten years of teaching, Halaby then moved to New York City. For Halaby, the effervescent and bustling city played a major role in her perception of politics, religion, social structure and gender equality.  Halaby states in a 2013 interview with New York Magazine, “in those days, being female and then, on top of that, being Palestinian, made things extremely difficult”.

Although political strife plagued the artist's early years, Samia Halaby’s grand canvases are seemingly neutral. Perhaps they seek an inner peace as they draw upon an explosion of abstract colours that sometimes suggest a notion of boundless freedom beyond the tangible barriers that triangulated her reality. A vivid burst of organic and inorganic shapes, Halaby’s oeuvre is an exercise in unleashing oneself of one’s limitations and exploring the wonders of life.

Samia Halaby emphasised that her early source of inspiration was the geometry and logical patterns seen in Islamic art between the 14th and 17th centuries, especially within Persian carpets. Halaby’s visit to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem had a significant effect on her practice throughout her career, notably the intricate, tessellating patterns of Islamic architecture. These observations helped her understand the concept of spatiality and the perspective needed to describe three dimensional objects on a two dimensional surface. Combined with her study of the various forms of Cubism, she created her own signature style, one that bridged modern European techniques with her Palestinian and Middle Eastern heritage. 

Untitled (Michelangelo Perspective no. 162) is the only figurative work by the artist that still remains from her earliest period, and the only one to have ever appeared at auction. With keen attention to the sumptuousness of her herculean  figures, Halaby draws from one of the most renowned Italian Renaissance artists, Michelangelo. This work illuminates Halaby’s diverse technical skill and her incredible ability to move between genres and techniques. Untitled (Michelangelo Perspective no. 162) is among the most telling of Halaby’s dual identities. The work synthesises her iconic use of line and colour with a calculated study of fresco-inspired cartoon drawings. The present work evokes the hybridity that is fundamental to the Palestinian landscape and culture—a brilliant collation of all three Abrahamic religions. The rarity of this work lies in its abrupt and syncopated nature, as if Halaby’s canvas is an act of rebellious defamation, both destructive and constructive.