Lot 163
  • 163

JEAN DUBUFFET | Effigie Incertaine XXVI

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Jean Dubuffet
  • Effigie Incertaine XXVI
  • signed with the artist's initials, dated 75 and dedicated à Ennio Navire J.D. 78; titled and inscribed on the reverse
  • vinyl paint on paper mounted on canvas
  • 64.5 by 46 cm. 25 1/2 by 18 1/8 in.


Ennio Navire, Italy (a gift from the artist in 1978)
Thence by descent to the present owner


Max Loreau, Ed., Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule XXX: Parachiffres, mondanités, lieux abrégés, Paris 1980, illustrated in colour (cover); p. 51, no. 109, illustrated


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly brighter and more vibrant in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. The sheet is mounted on wood. Very close inspection reveals some tiny nicks and skinning to the edges. As visible in the catalogue illustration there are some tiny spots of rubbing most notably to the upper right hand corner and the center of the left hand edge. Further extremely close inspection reveals a few short and unobtrusive rub marks to the white pigment toward the center of the right hand edge and a tiny media accretion to the lower left hand corner tip. There is no restoration apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"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

Executed in March, 1975, Effigie incertaine XXVI brilliantly exhibits Jean Dubuffet’s visceral aesthetic language in which figure and landscape become one through the artist’s innovative notion of the ‘landscaped body’. Prominently illustrated on the cover of fascicule XXX of the artist’s catalogue raisonné, Effigie incertaine XXVI conveys bold undulating lines and intense primary colours of saturated red and yellow, which in turn signify flattened yet highly expressive humanoid forms. Completed during the exceptionally productive last decade of the artist’s life, the present work follows Dubuffet’s largest series, the l’Hourloupe cycle, which occupied the artist from 1962 to 1974. Executed one year later, Effigie incertaine XXVI reveals the distinctive amoeba-like forms that defined the earlier series, yet the composition poignantly illustrates a stripping of Dubuffet’s visual language to its most rudimentary. Black vinyl paint thickly outlines organic shapes that interlace and interlock in chaotic pieces of a puzzle, distinguishing from one another through vivid colour and internal hatching. Thus Dubuffet’s fascination with the human body, as well as a dialogue between the body and its surroundings, becomes central to the present work, where the artist’s ingenious figuration radically breaks with artistic tradition in its profound association with the landscape genre. Dubuffet himself proclaimed, “I think portraits and landscapes should resemble each other because they are more or less the same thing. I want portraits in which description makes use of the same mechanisms as those used in a landscape—here wrinkles, there ravines or paths; here a nose, there a tree; here a mouth and there a house” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Exh. Cat., Basel,  Fondation Beyeler, Jean Dubuffet: Metamorphoses of Landscape, 2016, p. 40). Effigie incertaine XXVI illuminates Dubuffet’s radical reduction of form and colour, and here the metamorphic figure landscape is compressed, distorted and constricted. The raw, unbridled energy of the present composition is directly in keeping with ‘Art Brut’, which embodied an artistic language expressive of emotion and untrammelled by convention. The title of the work translates in English to ‘uncertain effigy’ and its semantics refers to the artist’s own recalcitrant nature and ground-breaking process of image-making. The term ‘effigy’ is defined as a rough model of a person that is made in order to be damaged or destroyed as a protest, thus the very word ‘effigy’ becomes a metaphor for the artist’s own destruction of aesthetic norms. In a transformative gesture of rebellion, Dubuffet rejected conventional notions of beauty and the sublime in favour of what he believed to be more humanistic and authentic: “I feel that beauty is merely an accidental and very specious convention. I feel that the things which are reputed to be ugly are so reputed without reason, and are no less beautiful than the things reputed to be beautiful” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Exh. Cat., Paris, Galerie Boulakia, Jean Dubuffet, 2007, p. 7). Dubuffet’s dialectic between abstraction and figuration, the beautiful and the ugly, is echoed by his contemporaries in both Europe and America such as Alberto Giacometti, Adolph Gottlieb and Jackson Pollock. Indeed, Dubuffet’s anti-aesthetic, anti-cultural position manifested one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and Effigie incertaine XXVI offers a striking example of such revolutionary deviance and artistic invention.