Lot 22
  • 22


400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Julio González
  • Daphné
  • inscribed González, numbered E-A and stamped with the foundry mark C. Valsuani Cire Perdue
  • bronze
  • height (not including base): 141cm.
  • 55 1/2 in.
  • Executed in iron circa 1937 and cast in bronze at a later date in an edition of 2 numbered casts plus 6 casts marked 0, 0, 00, E-A, HC and M.E.A.C. MADRID, the last cast being for the Donación González, Barcelona. This example was cast in November 1970.


Galería Théo (Elvira González), Madrid Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1987


Madrid, Fundación Juan March, Julio González. Esculturas y dibujos, 1980, no. 18, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1930-33) New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Berlin, Akademie der Künste & Frankfurt, Städtische Galerie, Julio González: Plastiken, Zeichnungen, Kunstgewerbe, 1983, no. 106, illustrated in the catalogue

Madrid, Galería Théo (Elvira González), Julio González, 1987, no. 58

Madrid, Casa del Monte, Artistas españoles de París: Praga 1946, 1993-94, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1933-35)

Logroño, Sala Amos del Ayuntamiento & Valladolid, Museo de la Pasión, Julio, Joan y Roberta González, 2006, no. 15, illustrated in the catalogue


Vicente Aguilera Cerni, Julio González, Madrid, 1971, another cast illustrated p. 46 Pierre Descargues, Julio González, Paris, 1971, no. 12, another cast illustrated p. 29

Vicente Aguilera Cerni, Julio, Joan, Roberta González - Itinerario de una dinastía, Barcelona, 1973, no. 238, another cast illustrated p. 278

Josephine Withers, Julio González, Sculpture in Iron, New York, 1978, iron version illustrated p. 61

Jörn Merkert, Julio González, Catalogue raisonné des sculptures, Milan, 1987, no. 229, iron version illustrated pp. 261-262

'En Cartel, La Recuperación de Julio González', in El País, Madrid, 27th March 1987, another cast illustrated p. 13

Catalogue Note

'The title itself evokes Ovid's story of metamorphosis in which the beautiful wood nymph is transformed into a tree in order to escape her amorous pursuer, Apollo. The myth itself has all the ingredients of the kind of abrupt and radical transformation to which the Surrealists were attracted.' Josephine Withers, Julio González, Sculpture in Iron, New York, 1978, p. 60

Executed around 1937, Daphné represents the pinnacle of Julio González’s skill as a sculptor. An elegant construction of geometric forms, the composition plays on the disparity between a figurative subject and mechanistic abstraction. The subject is the classical myth of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book I), in which the river nymph Daphne transforms into a laurel tree as she flees from Apollo. Cursed by Cupid, she becomes the unwilling object of Apollo’s infatuation, but her father, the river god Peneus, intervenes, instigating her metamorphosis from nymph to tree.

Sculpting this mystifying transformation poses a technical sculptural challenge that has intrigued artists throughout the centuries, with notable examples including Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s marble dating from the seventeenth century (fig. 1). Negotiating a transformation between two natural worlds - human and plant - González encapsulates this metamorphosis by using the human figure as a point of departure for abstraction, narrating through the synthesis of geometric forms. Cast in bronze, the overlapping planes of the body of the sculpture echo Cubist and Constructivist art, while the elements of the head resonate with a Surrealist aesthetic.

The elongated shape of Daphné, from which curved shafts wonderfully protrude, echo the branches of the laurel tree. Striking a formal balance between geometry and whimsical naturalism, González gives the work an organic sense of life, invoking a mythical personality within its form. The crafting of the curved lines and spike motifs that emerge from the body of the sculpture gives the work a distinctive silhouette and is a faithful reminder of the artist’s early training in his father’s metalsmith shop in Barcelona. González moved to Paris in 1900, beginning his career as a painter, but it was his training in autogenous welding at the Renault factory in 1918 and his collaboration with Pablo Picasso in 1928-32 that marked the watershed moment for his sculptural development. A new sculptural language, which González described as ‘drawing in space’, refined the construction of planar form by distilling the subject to sparse geometric elements. This approach to sculpture and the manipulation of the material came to define his works in the 1930s, of which Daphné is a prime example. It was the last ten years of González’s life that proved to be the most fruitful and led him to join Picasso, Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti as one of the pioneers of modern sculpture.

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Julio González Administration.