Lot 329
  • 329

JULIO GONZÁLEZ | Personnage dit "Femme au miroir"

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Julio González
  • Personnage dit "Femme au miroir"
  • Inscribed J. Gonzalez © and with the foundry mark E. Godard Fondr and numbered 6/8 
  • Bronze
  • Height (not including base): 19 3/4 in.
  • 50 cm
  • Conceived in iron circa 1934 and cast in bronze in an edition of 8 casts numbered 1/8 - 8/8 plus 4 marked 0, 00, EA and HC.


Galerie de France, Paris
Acquired from the above in 1988


Transition, no. 26, Paris, 1937, illustration of another cast p. 159
Wolfgang Sauré, "Die Zeichnung im Werk von Julio González," in Weltkunst, March 1976, illustration of another cast p. 383
Klaus Colberg, "Das Lebenswerk eines Vaters der Modernen Metallskulptur, Starrer Schwung," in Nürnberger Zeitung, July 21, 1983, illustration of another cast n.p.
Julio González: A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1983, no. 144, illustration of the iron version p. 129
Jörn Merkert, Julio González, Catalogue raisonné des sculptures, Milan, 1987, no. 151, illustration of the iron version p. 150


Dark brown patina. The bronze is attached with a bolt to a stone base. There is some dust in deeper crevices. Some minor rubbing to the bronze where the bronze is attached to the base. A couple of nicks to the edges of the stone base.
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.

Catalogue Note

The present work was originally conceived in iron in 1934, at the height of González’ creative output: an elegant construction of abstract geometric forms that plays on the disparity between the mechanistic abstraction of the piece and its figurative subject.

Personnage dit “femme au miroir” is a distillation of the classical theme of a woman at her toilette. It also draws on the myth of Narcissus, which held a particular fascination for González, as it did for his contemporary and friend Constantin Brancusi, who would create at least two sculptures on the theme. In Greek mythology, Narcissus’ striking beauty caused some to commit suicide when he disdained them. Ironically, González’ interpretation of this “beauty” distilled into a few sparse iron elements. He reduces the woman’s figure to metal lines, illustrating the term “drawing in space” that would come to define his sculptures in the 1930s. The lines of Personnage dit "Femme au miroir" are concentrated around a vertical axis with sweeping arcs, used to describe the outer contours of an otherwise absent but undeniably present form. Born into a family of metalsmiths, González’ work was not by any means revolutionary over the first thirty years of his career, in which he produced traditional, albeit beautiful, metalwork. In 1918, González worked at the Renault factory where he learned the technique of autogenous welding which he would later use in his celebrated iron sculptures. It was only in 1928, when Picasso asked González’ advice on welding a sculpture, that González would bring together Cubism and industrial welding—a departure from the solid mass of traditional sculpture. This led to four years of close collaboration between the two Spanish artists, and the development of a new visual lexicon for González. He created work that was not completely naturalistic nor totally abstract, with a playfulness that lent life to otherwise inert metals. The effect on Picasso’s work was equally important: sculpture came into its own in the artist’s oeuvre, no longer simply an extension of his painting (see fig. 1).

González work shirks the label of any art historical movement, synthesizing the two supposedly opposing movements of Constructivism and Surrealism. Discussing González’ remarkable accomplishments, Margit Rowell commented: "González transformed the face of twentieth century sculpture from an art of representational images to an art of invention: an art of formally self-referential objects evoking ideas. A subway was no longer a model to be imitated but a theme on which to compose autonomous formal variations. A material was no longer a medium in the literal sense but the basic determinant of form. A technique was no longer relegated to the hands of a master craftsman or technician but remained in the hands of the artist alone. In fact, it was through the artist’s direct realization of his work—the direct forging of metals—that the new vision of sculpture as we know it today was born" (Margit Rowell in Julio González, A Retrospective Exhibition (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1983, p. 30).

Connections can be made between González’ revolutionary work and that of his artistic contemporaries Alexander Calder, David Smith and Picasso, and he was surely greatly influenced by these artists (see fig. 2). Recognized as the “master of the torch” by David Smith, the synthesis that González achieved was surely based on his unique knowledge of the medium, was his alone.

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Viviane Grimminger and Carmen Martinez.