Lot 236
  • 236


400,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Constantin Brancusi
  • Nu
  • Signed C Brancusi (lower right)
  • Gouache and pencil on paper laid down on board
  • 25 3/8  by 18 3/4  in.
  • 64.5 by 47.6 cm
  • Executed circa 1925-26.


Mr. & Mrs. R. Sturgis Ingersoll, Pennsylvania (acquired from the artist in 1928 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 2, 1974, lot 124)
Achim Moeller Ltd., London (acquired at the above sale)
Private Collection, United Kingdom (acquired from the above circa 1974)
Simon C. Dickinson, Ltd., London
Acquired from the above on March 15, 2007


New York, Brummer Gallery, Brancusi, 1926, n.n.
Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Exhibition of Sculpture by Brancusi, 1927, n.n.
Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, A Loan Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture from the Collection of Miss Anna Warren Ingersoll and Mr. and Mrs. R. Sturgis Ingersoll, 1933, no. 5, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Constantin Brancusi, 1955-56, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue
Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum & Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Constantin Brancusi 1876-1957, A Retrospective Exhibition, 1969-70, n.n.
London, Tate Gallery, 1981-2006 (on loan)


Sidney Geist, Brancusi, The Sculpture and Drawings, New York, 1975, illustrated p. 21
Brancusi & Duchamp, The Art of Dialogue (exhibition catalogue), Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, 2018, illustrated in color p. 14


Executed on buff colored laid paper which has been mounted to a board. There are some minor losses to the sheet in all four corners. The medium is bright and fresh. Some minor spots of staining mostly in the lower right and lower left corners. There is a nailhead sized stain or oxidation to the left of the figure's head in the background. Two spots of nailhead sized abrasion in the figure's hairs. There is a small stain in the upper right quadrant in the background. Some minor scuffs throughout. The work is in very good condition.
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 drawing was included in the seminal Brancusi exhibition at the Arts Club of Chicago in 1927, one of only two occasions during which Brancusi selected works on paper to exhibit alongside his sculpture. The following year it was purchased from the artist by R. Sturgis Ingersoll, the Philadelphia-based patron who was one of the foremost proponents of modern European art in the United States in the early decades of the twentieth century. Ingersoll’s backing helped introduce Brancusi to Philadelphia collectors and many works into the collections of institutions in and around the city. Ingersoll later served as the president of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for 16 years starting in 1948. It was one of just ten drawings shown at the artist’s retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1955. Although Brancusi worked primarily as a sculptor, the artist completed a limited number of works on paper, many of which he made for his friends or patrons when they visited his studio. According to Brancusi scholar Margit Rowell, this body of work numbers between 150-200, though examples as complete as the present work are rare within this group. 

In contrast to the process of sculpting in marble or wood, drawing provided Brancusi with more immediacy of expression and encouraged a freer exploration of form, yet the change in medium did not deter him from his primary goal: to strip down detail and focus on line. Dr. Friedrich Teja Bach, another leading scholar on Brancusi, explains: “Simplicity is thus the outcome of the artist’s effort to resolve the complexity of natural forms. But there is more to resolution than mere elimination: it is also the preservation, even the generation, of form… Essential form in Brancusi is not reductive but productive. It is defined not by the precision of geometry but by the (in every sense) pregnant concision of life” (Constantin Brancusi: 1876-1957 (exhibition catalogue), Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris & Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1995, p. 23).

Nu is divided into three horizontal sections in a softly gradated palette to suggest a sense of depth. The model’s limbs are outlined with the aid of negative space where Brancusi has left the ground unworked. The clean lines and restraint of the present gouache suggest that his works on paper deserve the same level of critical attention as his work in stone or metal. As Rowell writes, “In his drawings...Brancusi provides significant clues as to his vision and his priorities… [His drawings bear] witness to an approach entirely consistent with his vision of the world and his approach to form” (ibid., pp. 287-88).

The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Margit Rowell.