Lot 22
  • 22

Medardo Rosso

80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Medardo Rosso
  • Enfant juif (Bambino Ebreo)
  • wax over plaster
  • height: 9 1/8 in. 23.1 cm


Charles F.U. Meek, Cheltenham (acquired directly from the artist in 1923)
St. Mary’s Priory, Princethorpe, Warwickshire (a gift from the above in 1964)
Sotheby’s, London, 24 November 1964, Lot 59 (consigned from the above)
Acquired from the above sale


Mino Borghi, Medardo Rosso, Milan, 1950, cat. no. 32 & 33, n.p. (another version illustrated)
Paola Mola & Fabio Vittucci, Medardo Rosso. Catalogo ragionato della scultura, Milan,
2009, cat. no. I.27q, illustrated p. 297


The medium is wax over plaster. The surface is richly textured and a bit dirty overall. There are a couple extremely minor pindot losses to the wax surface as well as a nailhead sized paper accretion to the back center of the figure's head. There are areas of restoration to the wax, most notably to the child's right cheek and right shoulder. The work is in overall good condition.
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

The present work is a fine example of the many enfant portrayals that Rosso created over the course of his artistic career. It is a subject matter that he revisited vigorously, particularly during his time spent in Paris in the early 1890s. Rosso returned to Paris in 1889, after spending four years in Milan, deprived of recognition and success. He was hospitalized in the same year, but it was the following five-year period after his hospitalization that he conceived of and experimented with continuously with his series of children. Enfant Juif, conceived in 1893, is amongst them.

Rosso’s sympathy towards children is undoubtedly manifested in this wax sculpture. Underneath the plump features, a muted sense of melancholy seeps through the soft grin of the child. The subtle pupils roughly modeled are almost peering cautiously out and upwards, evoking a remarkable sense of liveliness beneath the youthful curiosity.  Such vulnerability is vividly captured by Rosso’s deliberate choice of wax as a sculptural medium. This specific medium was considered a novelty during the nineteenth century as wax models had long been used as a transitory medium for bronze casting and were rarely presented as works of art in their own right. Rosso denied such tradition and transformed it into a major part of his modus operandi. He rejected completing his sculptures in round and persisted in creating coarse unrefined surfaces often leaving signs of casting still intact. This is exemplified by Enfant Juif, with the modeled surface of the child’s expression gradually morphing into an undulating wax landscape of dents and ridges that suggest the form of the child’s head and back. It is as if the wax remains malleable and is still in the midst of an on-going process of artistic creation. As Harry Cooper writes, "…insisting on the instantaneous impression, [Rosso] made objects our eyes have to crawl over. Insisting on frontality he left his hands wander over the backs of his sculptures to produce densities and opacities of material that even Rodin never dreamt of. These backs are where Rosso’s absorptive desires and the self-figural impulses of his medium issued" (H. Cooper, "Ecce Rosso!" in Medardo Rosso: Second Impressions (exhibition catalogue), Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge 2003-04, p. 21). Rosso has effectively utilized wax’s fluid physical property to materialize the fleeting movement of a child’s expression as well as focusing on the ephemeral nature of childhood. As a result, Enfant Juif not only demonstrates Rosso’s virtuosity in harnessing the materiality from this sculptural medium but also reflects his interest in transience and motion, a testimony of the artist overturning traditional sculptural principles.

The identity of the portrayed child remains ambiguous and Enfant Juif was the first title used for this model. It was later speculated the young child to be Oscar Ruben Rothschild before Rosso published photographs of the sculpture under a more general title of Head of Child and subsequently as San Luigi in an exhibition of religious art in 1926. 

Enfant juif was the first work that the work's first owner, Charles Meek, acquired from the artist in 1923; he would go on to purchase three more on various trips to Milan. Upon his death, it was gifted to St. Mary’s Priory at Princethorpe College in Warwickshire, where his daughter Diana was a nun. 

Fig. 1 Medardo Rosso in his studio, early 1890s, with a mold assembly in the foreground, Museo Medardo Rosso, Barzio