Vingarna (The Wings) unique example, cast by the Art Bronze Foundry London Ltd., 1983 signed 'C Milles' (on base) bronze height 47in, width 12 1/4in, depth 15 3/4in
CERTIFICATE: William Wareing, Curator, Millesgården, Lidingö, Sweden, 11 July 2005
PROVENANCE (of the original plaster): The personal collection of Carl Milles, Lidingö, Sweden Alf Wallander, Stockholm, Sweden S. Martensson, Stockholm, Sweden A. Winberg, Vikingstad, Sweden Birger Gustaf Paulson, Linköping Thence by inheritance to the Benya collection, Boca Raton, Florida Permanent collection, Millesgården, Lidingö, Sweden
Carl Milles is Sweden's best known sculptor, but his connection to the United States also runs long and deep. Born Carl Wilhelm Andersson near Uppsala in 1875, he moved to Paris when he was 22. Soon after his arrival, his encounter with Auguste Rodin's monumental sculpture of Balzac at the autumn salon of 1897 would permanently change his artistic vision. He wrote later: "I was completely overwhelmed by it, and life began to have meaning for me." The young artist went to work in Rodin's studio, and exhibited in the annual Paris salons under the name Carl Milles from 1899 until his return to Sweden in 1906.
Milles was invited to the United States by publisher George Gough Booth in 1931, to be sculptor-in-residence at Booth's Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He and his wife Olga remained at Cranbrook for over twenty years, and Milles produced dozens of sculptures, not only for Cranbrook (which today has the largest collection of Milles' work outside of Sweden), but also for other public spaces in the United States, the most famous of which is The Meeting of the Waters fountain group in Saint Louis, Missouri (1940).
The classical inspiration behind Milles' sculpture naturally led to larger-than-life nudes that sometimes caused consternation among an often puritanical American public, and apparently the sculptor kept a "fig-leaf maker" in residence. Also, as in Classical sculpture, the works of Milles could sometimes be seen as having homoerotic undertones. Vingarna, inspired by the Greek myth of Zeus' love for the handsome young Trojan prince, Ganymede, actually became the centerpiece of what was probably the first film ever made about homosexual love, Vingarne (1918), by Swedish director Mauritz Stiller.
Milles and Olga returned definitively to Sweden and their beloved home, Millesgården, in 1951. He died in 1955, leaving an important legacy of public sculpture in Sweden and throughout the world. The Millesgården, according to his wishes, is now a public museum, garden and sculpture park.
*** Vingarna was created by Carl Milles in circa 1907, shortly after returning to his homeland after his life-changing experience in Paris. He created several different plaster "sketches" in different sizes, the present version being of an intermediate size. A smaller version (23.2in / 59cm) was later cast in bronze, as was the monumental version (110in / 270cm), casts of which are found today in the Millesgården in Lidingo, on the Skeppsholmen bridge in front of the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, and in Götheborg.
Milles apparently had a particular affection for this intermediate-sized plaster sketch, and kept it in his personal collection until finally accepting to give it to his friend and fellow artist Alf Wallander, in exchange for various services and loans provided by Wallander during those years when Milles was still struggling to become known in Sweden.
The plaster changed hands several times in the following decades without ever having been cast in bronze, until the present owners approached Michael Gaskin of the Art Bronze Foundry London. Gaskin, whose company has cast bronzes for artists such as Henry Moore, Jacob Epstein and Anthony Caro, was impressed by the quality of the work and agreed to take on the challenge of making a unique cast in bronze. This cast was later exceptionally sanctioned by the Millesgården's directors (the Millesgården holds exclusive rights to the casting of Milles' work), in view of the mastery of the Art Bronze Foundry's casting and patination. The original plaster is now conserved in the Millesgården's collection under inventory number M 74 B.
The journey of the plaster sculpture from Millesgarden to the United States and back to its original home would probably have pleased Milles, as it reflects his own peregrinations, and the quality and beauty of the bronze cast would certainly have met with the sculptor's own demanding standards. Vingarna remains one of the most beautiful works from Milles' Rodinesque period, and the vigorous modeling and accessible proportions of this version easily explain why the plaster earned a place in the sculptor's personal collection.