Mother and Child verde di Prato 22.3 cm. (8 3/4 in.) high (including base) Executed in 1931 Estimate on request
Provenance: Sir Eric Maclagan K.C.V.O. Private collection, U.K.
Literature: David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture Volume 1, Sculpture 1921-48, Lund Humphries, London, 1957, cat.no.107 (ill.b&w.p.62) Robert Melville, Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings 1921-1969, Thames and Hudson, London, 1970, no.67 (ill.b&w)
Exhibited: New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Henry Moore, 17 December 1946 - 16 March 1947, no.3 London, Tate Gallery, Sculpture and Drawings by Henry Moore, The Arts Council of Great Britain, 2 May - 29 July 1951, no.54 London, Tate Gallery, Henry Moore, The Arts Council of Great Britain, 17 July - 22 September 1968, no.23
On a neatly handwritten sheet of the personal accounts of Sir Eric Maclagan, along with purchase entries that include a beige stair carpet, a sewing machine and a refrigerator, is a single entry. 'November '31: H. Moore statuette 18.18.0.' In such prosaic surroundings is the first and only recorded of sale of Mother and Child, 1931.
Sir Eric Maclagan was one of the most distinguished figures in the international art world between the wars, a man who combined the roles of scholar, curator and collector to a rare degree. His father was bishop of Lichfield when he was born in 1879 and went on to become Archbishop of York. In 1905 Eric Maclagan joined the Victoria and Albert Museum to which he would devote a significant amount of his working life. In 1924 he became the museums director, a position he would hold for the next twenty-one years. He was knighted in 1933 and made K.C.V.O. in 1945.
During his time in charge, the museum managed to combine continuing as a centre of excellence with increasing awareness of public interest, and the need for this to be accommodated. Maclagan was responsible for the popular innovation of 'Object of the Week', placing a changing selection of the museums exhibits in the entrance hall. He personally organized a series of exhibitions at the museum which both enhanced its reputation and public interest in it, including an exhibition of works of art belonging to the livery companies of London in 1926, and the William Morris centenary exhibition in 1934. It was Maclagan who first suggested the system of arranging the museums exhibits according to primary and secondary collections, aimed at making it more accessible to the general visitor and which came about after the Second World War.
If Maclagans own interest in and knowledge of the arts was encyclopaedic, his particular subject of scholarship was Italian sculpture, on which he produced the definitive Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in 1932. Three years later he published a series of lectures given at Harvard University as Italian Sculptures of the Renaissance.
Sir Erics active involvement in the wider world of the arts was considerable as both an academic and an executive. In 1927-28 he was appointed Charles Eliot professor at Harvard University and he enjoyed associations with Oxford, Birmingham, Hull, Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin universities in Britain. He was vice-President of the Society of Anitquairies, president of the Museums Association, chairman of the National Buildings Record and Chairman of the Fine Arts committee of the British Council. For personal pleasure he translated French poets into English, designed bookplates (one for his friend Bernard Berenson) and became involved in specialist book production.
It was, however, as a collector that Sir Eric revealed the most intriguing and certainly the most pioneering side of his enthusiasms, as described in the Dictionary of National Biography: 'Maclagans personal predilections were varied and extended well beyond the confines of his specialization in the field of Early Christian and Renaissance studies; he was sympathetic with the aims of many artists and had in his possession a bust of himself by Metrovic; he was one of the first private collectors to buy the work of Henry Moore.' His combined love of church architecture (and its preservation), and contemporary artists would have made one event especially fitting. In 1946 he was invited to unveil the Crucifixion by Graham Sutherland which had been commissioned by the church or St Matthew in Northampton. At the same time the church had commissioned Henry Moore's other most distinguished Mother and Child sculpture along with Sir Erics small masterpiece, a life-size composition in Hornton stone which remains there with the Sutherland work today.
As befitted a man who loved to combine adventurous travel with cultural and artistic discovery, Sir Eric Maclagan died, suddenly, in 1951, on a hill in northern Spain climbing up to visit the revered 9th century pre-Romanesque church of Santa Maria de Naranco.
Please see separate catalogue for Dr Alan Wilkinson's essay on Mother and Child.