Lot 16
  • 16

CY TWOMBLY | Untitled

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Cy Twombly
  • Untitled
  • signed, dated 1960 and variously inscribed
  • wax crayon and pencil on paper
  • 70.9 by 99.6 cm. 27 7/8 by 39 1/8 in.


Galleria La Tartaruga, Rome
Private Collection, Italy
Christie’s, New York, 18 November 1997, Lot 117 (consigned by the above) 
Private Collection
Xavier Hufkens, Brussels
Acquired from the above by the present owner


New York, Peder Bonnier Gallery, Cy Twombly, May - June 1996,  n.p., illustrated 
New York, Briggs Robinson Gallery, Twombly - Basquiat, April - May 2004, n.p., no. 2, illustrated 


Nicola Del Roscio, Cy Twombly: Drawings, Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. 2, 1956-1960, Munich 2012, p. 250, no. 208, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality of the sheet is lighter and slightly warmer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. The sheet is attached verso to the backing board in several places. Close inspection reveals minor undulation to the sheet and some handling creases to the work in scattered places throughout, most noticeably towards the outer edges and the centre left side of the composition. Further close inspection reveals slight and subtle discolouration isolated to the extreme outer edges, minor wear to all four corners and a speck of loss to the upper left corner tip. There is a very short and unobtrusive tear 10 centimetres up from the lower left corner, and a short repaired tear to the centre of the extreme left edge. Further close inspection under raking light reveals a light diagonal scuff towards the upper right of the composition, two short vertical lines of abrasion to the centre of the extreme right edge and a further short horizontal line of abrasion to the extreme upper edge towards the upper right corner.
"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

Modulating bursts of line, form and colour erupt across the surface of Cy Twombly’s 1960 work on paper, Untitled. An array of graffiti-like marks in silver-grey, coal black, burnt orange and midnight blue, explode across the pictorial plane in a dynamic synthesis of scribbles, smudges and fractious scrawls. Rendered in interspersing strokes of wax crayon and pencil, this enigmatic lexicon of signs and symbols bears the hallmark of Twombly’s practice, in which figuration and abstraction, fact and fiction, and history and myth, blend and blur beyond tangible distinction. As Roland Barthes intuits, “Twombly’s art consists in making us see things: not those which he represents… but those which he manipulates: a few pencil strokes, this squared paper, this touch of pink, this brown smudge. This is an art with a secret” (Roland Barthes, ‘The Wisdom of Art’ in: Exh. Cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Cy Twombly: Paintings and Drawings 1954-1977, 1979, pp. 9-10). Untitled was executed on the island of Capri during a period of prolific production, following Twombly’s life-changing move to Italy in 1957. Captivated by the country's ancient, mythological and historical grandeur, as much as by the avant-garde spirit of his Italian contemporaries such as Piero Dorazio, Twombly created a body of work inspired by the surrounding architecture, language, history and lifestyle, in a world where past and present collide. “I was mainly interested in the country and the life and the people…” the artist explained; “I mean the balance of life was like a dream, everything was functioning in the most natural way” (Cy Twombly cited in: Exh. Cat., Tate Modern, London, Cy Twombly: Cycle and Seasons, 2008, p. 45). Born in Virginia, USA in 1928, Twombly demonstrated great artistic talent from a young age. He attended a number of prestigious art institutions, including Black Mountain College in North Carolina between 1951 and 1952, and became acquainted with many pioneering figures of the Twentieth Century from Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell to John Cage. After receiving a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1952, he left America to travel throughout North Africa and Europe with his close friend Robert Rauschenberg, where he became fascinated by the boundless diversity of cultures and colours, sights and sites. Just two years later, he served in the U.S. Army as a cryptographer. Such experiences were to profoundly influence his artistic style and, as sociologist and writer Annie Cohen-Solal has stated, Twombly can perhaps be best understood through his “identity as an intercultural artist at heart” (Annie Cohen-Solal, ‘The Multiple Territories of Cy Twombly’, in: Exh. Cat., Eykyn Maclean, London, Cy Twombly: Works from the Sonnabend Collection, 2012, p. 9). Seeking to unlearn and unravel his traditional artistic training, Twombly forged a radical new visual language of freely-scribbled and lyrical forms, driven by raw emotion over reason, primal instinct above rational. “Each line now is the actual experience with its own innate story,” he proclaimed; “it is an involvement in essence… into a synthesis of feeling, intellect etc. occurring without separation in the impulse of action” (Cy Twombly cited in: Cy Twombly, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings: Vol. II 1961-1965, Berlin 1993, p. 21). Drawing from a wealth of subject matter as diverse as primordial times, hieroglyphics, calligraphy, mythology and the clash between the ancient and the modern worlds, the present work delivers a palimpsest of history, time and space, at once confounding and compelling.