Max Ernst, Janus, Bronze signed, numbered 5/18 and stamped with foundry mark
Lot 24AR
Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976) Janus 43.3cm (17 1/16in) (height)
Sold for £46,850 (US$ 79,588) inc. premium
Lot Details
Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
signed, numbered and stamped with the foundry mark 'max ernst/ 5/18/ A. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE' (on the top of the upper plinth)
bronze with black patina
43.3cm (17 1/16in) (height)
Conceived in May 1974 and cast in a numbered edition of 18 plus two additional casts numbered '00/18' and '0/18'


    Galerie Weber, Geneva.
    Acquired from the above by the uncle of the present owner, 1979.
    Gifted to the present owner, 1999.

    Max Ernst, exh. cat., Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 16 May - 18 August 1975, no.320, p.164 (another cast illustrated, p.153).
    Max Ernst, Bilder, Collagen, Grafiken, Plastiken, exh. cat., Hannover, Junior Galerie, 21 May – 6 June 1976, no.93, p.48 (another cast illustrated, p.42).
    E. Quinn, Max Ernst, London, 1977, pp.18-23 (other casts illustrated p. 23).
    Max Ernst from the Collection of Mr and Mrs Jimmy Ernst, exh. cat., Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Glenbow Museum, 3 November 1979 – 1 September 1980, no.42, p.64 (another cast illustrated, p.48).
    Max Ernst, exh. cat., Saint-Paul, Fondation Maeght, 5 July – 5 October 1983, no.141, p.147 (another cast illustrated, p.170).
    Max Ernst, Sculpture 1934-1974, exh. cat., New York, Cavaliero Fine Arts, 19 May – 19 June 1987, no.57, p.44 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated, p.44).
    Max Ernst, The Sculpture, exh. cat., Edinburgh, Fruitmarket Gallery, 11 August - 23 September 1990, no.57, p.44 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated, p.44).
    Max Ernst, The Sculpture, exh. cat., Newport Beach, Newport Harbor Art Museum, 12 July – 6 September 1992; University of California at Berkeley, University Art Museum, 12 December 1992 – 7 March 1993; Indianapolis, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 3 April – 30 May 1993, no.57 p.44 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated, p.44).
    Max Ernst, Skulptur, exh. cat., Malmö, Konsthall, 4 November 1995 – 14 January 1996, p.222 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated, pp.184-185).
    Max Ernst, Sculture / Sculptures, exh. cat., Castello di Rivoli, Museo d'Arte Contemporaneo, 16 May – 15 September 1996, p.192 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated, p.186).
    Max Ernst, Esculturas, obras sobre papel, obras gráficas, exh. cat., São Paulo, Museo Brasileiro da Es-cultura Marilisa Rathsam, 15 July – 7 September 1997, no.53, p.38 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated, p.100-101).
    Max Ernst, Skulpturen, exh. cat., Klagenfurt,26 September – 23 November 1997, p.182 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated, p.146-147).
    Die Sammlung Hubertus und Renate Wald, col. cat., Hamburg, 1998, p.124 (the cast '18/18' with greenish brown patina illustrated in colour, p.125).
    Max Ernst, esculturas sculptures, exh. cat., Lisbon, Fundação Arpad Szenes-Vieira da Silva, 23 September 1999 – 16 January 2000, p.87 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated in colour, p.79).
    Max Ernst in der Sammlung Würth – Graphik, Bücher und Bilder, col. cat., Künzelsau, Museum Würth, 2000, no.172, p.132 (the cast '7/18' with green patina illustrated in colour, p.118).
    Max Ernst, The Surrealist Universe in Sculpture, Painting and Photography, exh. cat., Tokyo, Tokyo Station Gallery, 20 July – 1 October 2000, no.S-60, p.165 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated in colour, p.79).
    Max Ernst, exh. cat., Okazaki, Okazaki City Museum (Mindscape Museum), 4 August - 24 September 2001; Wakayama, The Museum of Modern Art, 6 October – 25 November 2001, no.3-60, pp.202-215 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated in colour, p.152).
    S. Kaufmann, Im Spannungsfeld von Fläche und Raum, Studien zur Wechselwirkung von Malerei und Skulptur im Werk von Max Ernst, Weimar, 2003, p.110; no.104, p.230 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated, p.293).
    Es Baluard, Year Yero, exh. cat., Es Baluard, Museu d'Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma, 31 January – 21 November 2004, no.103 (the cast '8/18' with black patina illustrated, p.145).
    Pensa les formes, escultures contemporanies a les colleccions mallorquines, exh. cat., Es Baluard, Museu d'Art Modern I Contemporani de Palma, 29 June – 22 September 2005, no.21 (the cast '8/18' with black patina illustrated, p.77).
    J. Pech, Max Ernst – Plastische Werke, Cologne, 2005, pp.208-211 (the cast 'epr. d'essai' with black patina illustrated in colour, pp.208, 210-211).
    Max Ernst, Bilder und Skulpturen, col. cat., Künzelsau, Museum Würth, 2008 (the cast '7/18' with green patina illustrated in colour, p.39).
    Beyond Painting, Max Ernst in the Würth Collection, exh. cat., Malaga Museo Picasso, 22 September 2008 – 1 March 2009, no.57, p.239 (the cast '7/18' with green patina illustrated in colour, p.223).
    Albtraum und Befreiung – Max Ernst in der Sammlung Würth, kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch Hall, 16 October 2009 – 2 May 2010; Salzburg, Museum der Moderne, 12 June – 3 October 2010, p.367 (the cast '7/18' with green patina illustrated in colour, p.336).

    The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Dr. Jürgen Pech and will be included in the eighth volume of the catalogue raisonné of the complete work of Max Ernst.

    Max Ernst's sculpture presents an evolving but self-referential series of forms and motifs used playfully in the spirit of the objects trouvés of his earliest experiments in Dadaism. In that spirit Janus, one of his last sculptures, uses the cast of a scallop shell as a signifier of creation and metamorphosis, in the same way as his first sculpture in plaster of Paris, La Belle Allemande of 1934/35, which itself presents the shell as a nod to Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

    While the use of the shell in Janus relates to La Belle Allemande, the plate-form of the body is found first in that sculpture's partner the Oiseau-Tête of the same year, where it is paired with anthropomorphic characteristics formed from casts of the void spaces of everyday objects such as bowls and the concave openings of egg cups. Both of these works survived in plaster until the late 1950s when, following Ernst's receipt of the Grand Prix for Painting at the 1954 Venice Biennale, he was simultaneously cast out of the Surrealist circle and achieved wider commercial and financial reward. From that point he had the means to cast his earlier sculpture in bronze.

    Janus can also be related to the linked sculptures Un chinois égaré and Dans les rues d'Athènes, made in 1960, in which the figures with the very similar rectangular bodies bear applied attributes.

    In addition to the Botticellian shells, Janus's attributes look back to the High Rennaissance in the use of a stylized tortoise and frog as the generative organs, animals which as Leonardo da Vinci recorded in his notebooks were both born from an egg (J. Pech, op. cit., pp.113-115). Ernst had quoted from Leonardo as early as 1936, in reference to his frottage technique, and most obviously in his fountain for the city of Amboise, where Leonardo died, in which stylized tortoises and frogs emerge from egg-like forms (J. Pech, op. cit., illustrated p.112). Janus also looks further back to classical antiquity through the amalgam of representations of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, and Greek Herm sculptures sacred to Hermes, which are similarly cast in quadrilateral form topped by the head of the god and with a prominent phallus.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note the height of this lot should read 43.5cm (17 1/8in) and not as stated above.
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  1. William O'Reilly
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