Two small bronzes by Henry Moore (1898-1986) were part of a strong selection of Modern British sculptures offered at Dreweatts (25% buyer’s premium) last week.
Leading the Modern and Contemporary Art sale on October 12 in Donnington Priory, a 11in (28cm) high bust titled Head of Queen (Study) came from an edition of just two (plus one artist’s proof) which were conceived in 1952 and cast in 1959.
The compact maquette was in fact a preparatory work for the female figure in Moore’s largescale group sculpture King and Queen – the only sculpture depicting a single pair of adult figures in Moore’s entire output.
The extensively worked head demonstrated the sculptor’s experiments to perfect the figure. In 1968, he recalled that “the head of the queen was a problem because it had to be in harmony and I made two or three different attempts at it before being satisfied”.
Indeed, the queen’s head in the completed group sculpture was much softer and less angular than his preparatory studies.
One of the three examples of this cast is held in the collection of Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec.
The Dreweatts sale represented a rare opportunity to acquire another. Pitched at £50,000-80,000, it drew significant interest before being knocked down at £75,000 to a UK private buyer.
The other bronze came from the same source and was titled Reclining Nude: Crossed Feet. It measured just 6¼in (11cm) wide. A later work conceived in 1980 and cast in an edition of nine, it depicts a recumbent female figure – one of Moore’s most common subjects – propped up on both arms.
Here the estimate was set at £60,000-80,000 and it was knocked down on low estimate.
A further report of the Dreweatts sale will appear in a future issue. For more Modern British Art this week (pages 38-42).