Maquette for Madonna and Child lead and bronze on a marble base within a wooden case 33 cm. (13 in.) high (excluding marble base) Conceived in 1950
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist by Louis Osman Thence by descent to the present owner
EXHIBITED: London, Tate Gallery, Epstein, September - November 1952, cat.no.56 London, The Leicester Galleries, Fifty Years of Bronzes and Drawings by Jacob Epstein, June - July 1960, cat.no.50 (another cast) Auckland City Art Gallery, Jacob Epstein; Drawings and Sculpture, March - April 1961, cat.no.47 (another cast ill.b&w on the catalogue cover) Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Rebel Angel; Sculpture and Watercolours by Sir Jacob Epstein, October - November 1980 cat.no.50 (another cast)
LITERATURE: Richard Buckle, Jacob Epstein, Sculptor, London, Faber and Faber Ltd., 1963, cat.no.534, p.343 (another cast ill.b&w) Evelyn Sibler, The Sculpture of Epstein, Oxford, Phaidon Press Ltd., 1986, cat.no.437, pp.208-209 (another cast ill.b&w) June Rose, Demons and Angels, A Life of Jacob Epstein, New York, Carroll & Graf, 2002, p.246
In 1950 Epstein, on request of the architect Louis Osman, undertook his first public commission in over 20 years, for the Convent of the Holy Child of Jesus in Cavendish Square London. Although now regarded as some of his finest works, Epstein's public commissions had yet to be truly appreciated by the audience of the day. As such Osman, determined to secure an Epstein work to compliment his architecture, kept the identity of the sculptor concealed until a maquette was completed.
Osman was not kept waiting long; with eagerness Epstein neglected all other works and over the course of one tireless week produced Maquette for Madonna and Child without the promise of any financial reward. In an ovaloid composition, the present work comprises of the Virgin Mary as initially modelled on Epstein's mistress Kathleen Garmane. She displays an introverted serene gaze positioned protectively over a commanding child Jesus, arm outstretched to foretell of the crucifixion.
Upon presentation to the Mother Superior, marred by Epstein's then reputation, the initial response was one of dismay. Osman, so set on the Madonna and Child, threatened resignation; after in-depth discussion the Convent was brought round to Madonna and Child with the single proviso that the Madonna was to be remodelled to look down protectively over the child Jesus and those that passed below in the square.
In May of 1953 the final 13 foot sculpture was unveiled to a rapturous response and continues to be deemed as "the most successful of his large modelled sculptures". (Richard Cork, Jacob Epstein, Tate Gallery Publishing, London 1999, p 69)
The present cast was loaned by Louis Osman to the Tate Gallery for the 1952 Epstein retrospective.