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PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF HARRIET GRIFFIN WHITELAW

Giorgio Morandi
NATURA MORTA (STILL LIFE)
Estimate
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Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,000,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 1,545,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
51

PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF HARRIET GRIFFIN WHITELAW

Giorgio Morandi
NATURA MORTA (STILL LIFE)
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,000,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 1,545,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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New York

Giorgio Morandi
1890 - 1964
NATURA MORTA (STILL LIFE)
Signed Morandi (center right); signed Morandi and dated 1939 (on the reverse)
Oil on canvas
17 1/2 by 21 in.
44.4 by 53.3 cm
Painted in 1939.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York (acquired by 1964)

Albert Loeb & Jan Krugier, New York

Private Collection, Frankfurt

Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne

Private Collection

Harriet Griffin Fine Arts, New York

Private Collection, Tokyo

Acquired from the above in 2008

Exhibited

Milan, Palazzo Reale & Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Arte italiana del XX secolo da collezioni americane, 1960, no. 152, illustrated in the catalogue

Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Fifty Years of Modern Art, 1916-1966, 1966, no. 72, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Twentieth-Century Art from The Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller Collection, 1969, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue

Madrid, Fundacion Caja de Pensiones, Giorgio Morandi 1890-1964, 1984-85, no. 23, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Literature

Lamberto Vitali, Giorgio Morandi, Pittore, Milan, 1964, illustrated in color p. 110

Lamberto Vitali, MorandiDipintiCatalogo generaleVolume primo 1913/1947, Milan, 1977, no. 244, illustrated n.p.

William S. Lieberman, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection: Masterpieces of Modern Art, New York, 1981, illustrated in color p. 134

Catalogue Note

Natura morta is a brilliant early example of Morandi’s mastery of the still life, and the painterly virtuosity with which he combined the simplest forms and subtlest palette into a delicate and perfectly balanced composition. The still life remained central to Morandi’s art throughout his career, guided by his concern to bring together space, light, color and form, and his great achievement was to reconcile this traditional genre with the abstract aesthetic of his own time. Focusing his artistic efforts on a limited range of subjects, he was able to perfect these pictorial concerns to their purest expression.

The use of simple everyday objects allows the artist to focus his attention on the pictorial elements of space, light, color and form. Unlike the more austere and strictly geometrical forms of Morandi’s still lifes of the late 1940s and 1950s, the present early example, created in 1939, displays a wider range of shapes in which each object is distinctly different from the others. Tightly grouped together, they are arranged at varying distances from the viewer, partially overlapping and shadowing each other, thus forming a dynamic composition in which the eye is lead in a zig-zag line from the smallest element in the front to the largest one at the back.

The suggestion of a table on which the elements are placed, denoted by a simple diagonal line at the front and by the discontinued shadows at the back, further adds to the dynamic character of the composition. The three-dimensionality defined by the table and the shadows would disappear from Morandi’s later compositions, in which both the objects and the background would become flatter. The shadows, which would be almost completely abandoned in the 1950s, play an important role in the present work. Lit from the left-hand side, the objects cast shadows which define their contours, as well as their relationships with each other. All six elements are subtly modeled using the chiaro-scuro technique, with a soft, warm coloration to their left, and a darker tone to their right. As is the case with Morandi’s most accomplished paintings, the present work gracefully combines an earthy palette and a dynamic arrangement of objects into a composition of sophisticated beauty.

Natura morta boasts an impressive provenance, with Nelson A. Rockefeller as one of the work’s first owners. During Nelson Rockefeller’s career as vice-president, governor and a businessman, he managed to leave a lasting mark on the art world. Rockefeller served as a trustee and the president of The Museum of Modern Art, and also amassed a personal collection from around the world. Although the collection was vast—hundreds of objects—Rockefeller remained intentional and passionate about his acquisitions. He has described his attitudes when approaching artworks: “I'm interested in art that relates to life in our own day, that expresses the spirit of our time—art that isn't cloistered and set apart, art that includes the house” (quoted in Twentieth-Century Art from The Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller Collection (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1969, p. 11). This fall on November 13, Sotheby's will be offering a selection of works from The Collection of Nelson and Happy Rockefeller in a dedicated sale titled Modernist Vision, which encapsulates the couple's passion for twentieth-century art.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
New York