Lot 56
  • 56

JACQUES LIPCHITZ | L’Acrobat à cheval

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jacques Lipchitz
  • L’Acrobat à cheval
  • Inscribed J. Lipchitz, dated 14, numbered 6/7 and stamped with the foundry mark C. Valsuani Cire Perdue 
  • Bronze
  • Height: 21 1/4 in.
  • 54 cm
  • Conceived in 1914 and cast during the artist's lifetime.


Mr. & Mrs. Maurice J. Speiser, Philadelphia (acquired from the artist and sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, January 26-27, 1944, lot 112)

Buchholtz Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale)

Himan Brown, New York (and sold: Christie's, New York, May 16, 1990, lot 375)

Marlborough Gallery, New York

Acquired from the above in 2007 


New York, Marlborough Gallery, Jacques Lipchitz: The Paris Years, 1996, illustrated in the catalogue 

New York, Marlborough Gallery, Jacques Lipchitz: Sculpture and Drawings 1912-1972, 2004, illustrated in the catalogue 

Boulogne-Billancourt, Musée des années 30, Lipchitz: Les années françaises, 1910-1940, 2005, no. 5, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Roger Vitrac, Jacques Lipchitz, Paris, 1929, illustration of another cast p. 21

The Sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis & Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1954-55, illustration of another cast p. 24

Abraham M. Hammacher, Jacques Lipchitz: His Sculpture, New York, 1960, illustration of another cast p. 37

Jacques Lipchitz: A Retrospective Selected by the Artist, San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco & traveling, 1963-64, illustration of another cast p. 21

Lipchitz, The Cubist Period 1913-1930 (exhibition catalogue), Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York, 1968, no. 6, illustration of another cast n.p. 

Harold Osborne, Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Art, Oxford, 1988, p. 329

Alan G. Wilkinson, The Sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, New York, 1996, no. 17, illustrations of another cast pp. 39 & 120

Catalogue Note

L’Acrobat à cheval is among the most sophisticated sculptures from Lipchitz's Cubist period. This rendering of an acrobat on a horse was conceived in 1914, five years after Lipchitz's arrival in Paris. Initially receiving a traditional artistic training at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Academie Julian, Lipchitz always displayed an interest in a much wider range of sculptural styles. By 1912, Lipchitz was living in a studio in Montparnasse next door to Constantin Brancusi, and encountered many of the leading figures of the Parisian avant-garde including Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who introduced him to new artistic interpretations, including the techniques of Cubism. Immediately inspired by his contemporaries, Lipchitz integrated the cubist idiom into his sculptures. When discussing this change in his art Lipchitz reflects, “the ideas of Cubist sculpture were essentially different from those of Cubist paintings, some ways simpler and more direct, since Cubism lent itself so naturally to sculptural construction” (J. Lipchitz, My Life in Sculpture, New York, 1972, p. 40). The works that he created in those first five years delve into an experiment of deconstructing form using a medium that was inherently solid. His figures of this era, specifically L’Acrobat à cheval, illustrate the complexity of this task. According to Abraham M. Hammacher, “What he [Lipchitz] did in 1913 and 1914 marked, in its closed form and its conciseness, the great moment in which he positively emerged as a sculptor. The transition from a hesitatingly negative to a positive position was accomplished.” He continues to discuss some of the most impressive works from this period, highlighting the present work and Femme au serpent from 1913, these works “represent the most important advance of his work of 1912. The sensitive contour of the body rendered by a flowing line has been abandoned for strong articulation into parts. The transitions are sharply accented, the melodious quality of the line had disappeared, and a hard rhythm develops. The mass is sometimes rounded, sometimes reduced to angular surfaces” (A. M. Hammacher, op. cit., pp. 16 & 25).

L’Acrobat à cheval reveals Lipchitz’s path to incorporating geometric facets of cubist sculptural construction while retaining the naturalistic forms of the horse and the acrobat. An elegant curve traces from the horse’s front leg to the arched posture of the acrobat. This serpentine line is contrasted by the pointed angularity of the horse’s legs and the faceted planes of the horse’s rear haunches. Lipchitz fluently integrates the combination of curves and angles to formulate a new sculptural language.

The present work is modeled after an acrobatic performer astride a horse in the Cirque Medrano, a dramatic and lively spectacle that attracted the attention of many avant-garde artists of the era including Picasso, Archipenko and Chagall. In regards to the subject, Lipchitz explains, “I think that L’Acrobat à cheval was probably inspired by Seurat, for whom I have always had a great admiration. There is no particular stylistic relationship, but the idea for the subject may have derived from Seurat’s circus scenes” (J. Lipchitz, op. cit., p. 18). Lipchitz continues “The circus subjects resulted from the passion that all of us had for the wonderful French circus of this period” (ibid., p. 18).

Lipchitz initially rendered this figure in a patinated plaster version which is now in the collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. He later had the sculpture cast in bronze in an edition of 7; another cast from this edition is in the collection of the Princeton Art Museum in New Jersey on loan from the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation.

The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Pierre Levai.