Lot 21
  • 21

HENRY MOORE, O.M., C.H. | Rocking Chair No.3

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Moore
  • Rocking Chair No.3
  • plaster with shellac finish
  • height: 32.5cm.; 12¾in.
  • Executed in 1950, the present work is the unique working model of the bronze of the same name cast in an edition of 6 by the Valsuani Foundry, Paris.


Private Collection, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1990


Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture, Sculpture 1949-54, Vol.2, Lund Humphries, London, 1986, cat. no.276, p.28 (illustration of the present work in a previous state).


Compiled by Madeline Graham, Senior Conservator at Plowden & Smith, on 6th June 2018 at Sotheby's New Bond Street. Despite numerous historic repairs to cracks on the weaker joint areas of the sculpture, the object is in a very stable condition. The repairs are discreet and could possibly have been carried out in the artist's studio. There are some lighter areas of visible plaster on the base of the rocker and it is thought that this is caused by the shellac layer failing to adhere fully to the plaster. This base area appears stable at present, however it is advisable to consolidate this area to prevent further losses of shellac. Good general condition. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present 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

The 1950s was to be a productive and intense period of creativity for Henry Moore. Settled into his home and studio at Perry Green in Hertfordshire (to which he had moved a decade earlier to escape the threat of bombing in London) and becoming ever more recognised and sought-after it was also a decade that saw the full realisation of the potential of plaster within his work. The importance of Moore’s plasters has undergone a serious re-evaluation in recent years, aided in large part by the 2011 Royal Academy exhibition and accompanying catalogue written by Anita Feldman. Within the text Feldman writes that these were works created not just as a means to an end, but are intricately worked and finished sculptures in their own rights: ‘these plasters have been historically undervalued by both artist and art historian alike, yet they are the originals, shaped and textured with assorted chisels, metal files, dental instruments, cheese graters, even humble nutmeg graters and toothbrushes’ (Anita Feldman and Malcolm Woodward, Henry Moore Plasters, exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2011, p.19). As Moore himself wrote in 1973: ‘These are not plaster casts; they are plaster originals… they are the actual works that one has done with one’s own hands.’ (Henry Moore, quoted ibid, p.11). An artist that had historically favoured direct carving in stone and wood Moore came to fully realise and appreciate the advantages that plaster offered in the 1950s, making the Rocking Chair plasters some of the earliest fully realised plaster sculptures. The material had the great advantage of being able to be both carved and modelled, and then once set the surface could be worked (just as it could with stone and wood) and later coloured. Instead of the fresh, bright white that casting typically resulted in, Moore coloured his plasters with toned shellac made from walnut oil that was so reminiscent of his fascination with found natural objects including bones and pebbles.

Made in the early 1950s, originally intended as ‘toys’ for his young daughter Mary, the Rocking Chair series (see lot 17) capture Moore’s acute skill as a sculptor, made even more discernible through this, the original plaster for the third of the four rocking chairs. Rocking Chair No.3 showcases Moore’s working of the plaster surface, carefully scored and texture, but also the process that casting in bronze involved. Cast in sections, the present work shows the mother figure armless, with the baby cast separately. With these rocking chairs Moore paid close attention to the speed at which the sculptures rock and this would have been worked out through this, the original plaster from which the series of six were later cast. The present work offers a fascinating insight into Moore’s working practise and also displays the care and attention that he paid to his plasters, which rarely appear on the open market.