Germaine Richier (French, 1904-1959) Le cheval à six têtes, grand 1954-1956
Lot 45* AR W
Germaine Richier
(French, 1904-1959)
Le cheval à six têtes, grand
Sold for £ 187,000 (US$ 242,665) inc. premium

Lot Details
Germaine Richier (French, 1904-1959) Le cheval à six têtes, grand 1954-1956 Germaine Richier (French, 1904-1959) Le cheval à six têtes, grand 1954-1956 Germaine Richier (French, 1904-1959) Le cheval à six têtes, grand 1954-1956 Germaine Richier (French, 1904-1959) Le cheval à six têtes, grand 1954-1956 Germaine Richier (French, 1904-1959) Le cheval à six têtes, grand 1954-1956
Germaine Richier (French, 1904-1959)
Le cheval à six têtes, grand

signed, numbered 00/5 and stamped L. Thinot. fondeur PARIS on the base

101 by 105 by 50 cm.
39 3/4 by 41 5/16 by 19 11/16 in.

This work was conceived in 1954-1956, and is from an edition of five numbered versions and six subsequent editions numbered HC1, HC2, HC3, EA, 0/5 and 00/5.


  • This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity issued by Madame Françoise Guiter. This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the artist being prepared by Madame Françoise Guiter.

    Private Collection, Belgium
    Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne
    Private Collection, Europe
    Sale: Christie's, Paris, Art Contemporain, 8 December 2010, Lot 34
    Galerie Jacques de la Béraudière, Geneva
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Germaine Richier, 1956, no. 39
    New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, The Sculptures of Germaine Richier, 1957, n.p., no. 21, another example illustrated in black and white
    Zurich, Helmhaus Zurich, Die Frau als Künstlerin, 1958, no. 92
    Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Sculpture by Germaine Richier, 1958, n.p., no. 28, another example illustrated in black and white
    Antibes, Musée Grimaldi – Château d'Antibes, Germaine Richier, 1959, no. 21
    Boston, Boston University School of Fine and Applied Arts, Sculpture by Germaine Richier, 1959, no. 6
    Paris, Galerie Creuzevault, Germaine Richier, 1959, no. 16
    Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Dalla natura all'arte, 1960, n.p., no. 2, another example illustrated in black and white
    Zurich, Kunsthaus, Germaine Richier, 1963, no. 56
    Arles, Musée Réattu, Germaine Richier 1904-1959, 1964, no. 30
    Paris, Musée Bourdelle, Centaures, chevaux et cavaliers, 1972, n.p., no. 310, another example illustrated in black and white
    Saint Paul, Fondation Maeght, Germaine Richier, Retrospective, 1996, p. 145, no. 78, another example illustrated in colour
    Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Germaine Richier, 1997, pp. 116-117, no. 79, another example illustrated in black and white
    Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Germaine Richier, 1988, p. 12, no. 31, another example illustrated in black and white
    Geneva, Galerie Jacques de la Béraudière, Germaine Richier, 2011
    New York, Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin, Germaine Richier: Sculpture 1934-1959, 2013, p. 101 another example illustrated in colour, pp. 102-103 a detail of another example illustrated in colour
    Bern, Kunstmuseum Bern; Manheim, Kunsthalle Manheim, Germaine Richier, Retrospektive, 2013-2014, p. 137, no. 68, another example illustrated in colour
    Geneva, Galerie Jacques de la Béraudière, Germaine Richier Rétrospective, 2014-2015, p. 19, illustrated in colour

    Elisabeth Lebovici, 'L'atelier de Germaine Richier vu par Pierre-Olivier Deschamps' in: Beaux-Arts Magazine, 1989, p. 96, another example illustrated in colour

    Although often based on the artist's love of nature, there is generally something distinctly supernatural about the sculptures of Germaine Richier. Rooted in our own world, and yet existing on the limits of reality, her work regularly deals with hybridisation, portraying beings which are neither one thing nor yet quite the other. In Le cheval à six têtes, grand, literally 'the horse with six heads', of 1954-56 we see a fine example of this intriguing artistic assimilation, a large and powerful work of art which is both historically important and aesthetically stimulating. As its extensive exhibition history reveals, this sculpture is not just a key element in Richier's oeuvre, but also a significant piece of Twentieth-Century sculpture. Its true magnitude, however, can hardly be conveyed in words or even in pictures. This is a sculpture with many aspects, a magnum opus which needs to be experienced in the round, a work which requires personal interaction and careful appreciation.

    Born near Arles, France in 1904, Richier's distinguished education was to play a vital role in the development of her own artistic vision. She trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier between 1922 and 1925, studying under Louis-Jacques Guigues, a former assistant to Auguste Rodin. Later she moved to Paris, where she received further guidance from influential sculptor, painter and teacher Antoine Bourdelle. She was certainly in good company: another of Bourdelle's students was Alberto Giacometti, and although the two were never to become close, the similarities between the approaches of the Swiss master and Richier herself are remarkable. By 1934 Richier was ready to hold her first solo show at Galerie Max Kaganovitch in Paris, which included a selection of busts, torsos and human figures. During World War II she lived in Switzerland and the south of France, and it is during this period that we first encounter these hybrid forms for which she is now best-known. In 1948 she was honoured with a show at the prestigious Galerie Maeght in Paris, and by the beginning of the 1950s she was moving in the highest avant-garde circles, working in conjunction with Hans Hartung, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and Zao Wou-Ki. For decades following her death in 1959, Richier's importance tended to be overshadowed by the fame of her (generally male) contemporaries such as Giacometti or even Henry Moore. In recent years, however, her position not as simply a great female sculptor, but more as a veritable doyenne of Twentieth-Century art has been firmly re-established by substantial retrospectives at the Fondation Maeght in Paris, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, as well as the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern (both of which included one example of Le cheval à six têtes, grand).

    Sculptures such as the present work perfectly display Richier's own interest in texture and surface, form and space. Always beautiful, but never simply 'pretty', her sculptures are poignant and profound, laden with purpose and meaning. She is an artist who deals with the big issues, facing them head on. Her own words capture this attitude in typical lyrical style: "Je suis plus sensible à un arbre calciné qu'à un pommier en fleur" (I am more sensitive to a burnt tree than an apple tree in flower) (the artist in: Helena Struab, Giacometti, Richier, Gutfreund: Bourdelle et ses élèves, Paris 1998, p. 29). Le cheval à six têtes, grand exhibits her fascination with the materiality of things, with their decomposition and degradation. It is as notable for its lacunae as it is for its density, a figure stripped back, the inner workings revealed. In places almost skeletal, this many-headed horse is nevertheless filled with energy and life.

    Richier's sculptures often portray mystical amalgams, strange beasts which have emerged from the depths of her vivid imagination. A shepherd tottering on a tripod of skinny stilts (Le Berger des Landes, 1951), a multiple-headed Hydra (L'Hydre, 1954) or even a bizarre combination of man and bat (L'Homme de la nuit, 1954-1955) all feature in her work. These are the creatures of myth, inhabitants of the shadowy depths of pre-history or another dimension. Le cheval à six têtes, grand of 1954-1956 sits confidently within this group, its unusual form the stuff of surreal dreams. There is certainly a darkness in such works, but it is a beautiful and intriguing darkness which admits fleeting glimpses of the uncanny or the primordial. Unlike many of Richier's other sculptures, however, this curious, mysterious sculpture has no precedents in ancient myth or legend; what we see here is a product of the sculptor's own apparently limitless inventiveness.

    Perhaps more than just an imaginary chimera or shady spectre, Le cheval à six têtes, grand offers a frenetic vision of an animal in motion. In this respect, it is surely reminiscent of Umberto Boccioni's iconic Futurist sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio) of 1913. Both Boccioni's sculpture and Le cheval à six têtes, grand show blurred moving figures, kinetic force seemingly tricking the eye into seeing multiple images. The two works explore the method of placing volume, and indeed void, where none should exist, as living beings hurtle through space. More raw and visceral than Boccioni's sinuous masterpiece, Richier's horse has its legs lifted in a furious gallop, its head, or indeed heads, rolling and lifting in an exuberant celebration of vitality. This is a sculpture that simply exudes movement, negating the weighty rigidness of its own materiality. The effects are unexpected, captivating, and intense, representative of the world not as it is, but as we might perceive it to be.

    Le cheval à six têtes, grand is an outlandish beast, but it is one which displays Germaine Richier's thorough understanding of the body, of musculature, of skin and bone. Her careful study of the figure, both animal and human, was learned from Bourdelle, and permeates her work. "Toutes mes sculptures, mêmes les plus imaginées, partent toujours de quelques chose de vrai, d'une vérité organique" (all of my sculptures, even the most imaginary, always arise from something true, from an organic truth) (the artist in: Helena Struab, Giacometti, Richier, Gutfreund: Bourdelle et ses élèves, Paris 1998, p. 30). Although dealing in this case with the horse, this sculpture, undoubtedly one of the most important of her entire career, embodies Richier's archetypal sense of humanity. As she Richier herself knew well, the most outlandish of creatures are the ones based firmly on the truth. In Le cheval à six têtes, grand that knowledge is brought startlingly, magically to life.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £175,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £175,001 to £3,000,000 the Hammer Price
12.5% from £3,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalogue.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
* Import low rate

VAT on imported items at a preferential rate of 5% on Hammer Price and the prevailing rate on Buyer's Premium.

AR Artists Resale Right

Goods subject to Artists Resale Right Additional Premium.

W Shipping & handling restrictions apply

Objects displayed with a "W" will be located in the Bonhams Warehouse and will only be available for collection from this location.

  1. Amy Thompson
    Specialist - Contemporary Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 5864
Similar Items