Comment | The complicated history of Boccioni sculpture is no barrier to record price at Christie’s in New York

Umberto Boccionis Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio) was cast from another bronze in 1972 Courtesy of Christie's

What is a “surmoulage”? The eventual buyer of Umberto Boccionis Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (conceived 1913, cast 1972) for a record $16.2m at Christies in New York last night (11 November) has hopefully done their art history homework, because that is what they have bought.

A surmoulage—to add to the complicated terminology of sculpture—is a bronze cast from another bronze, as explained by the specialist Ester Coen on the last page of the Christies catalogue entry for the Boccioni.

In theory, this matters in the hierarchy of sculpture. The most prized casts are normally bronzes made from an artists plaster during their lifetime. In the case of Boccioni, this is an expectation too far—he died after being thrown from his horse during cavalry training aged only 33 so, as the Christies catalogue more prominently notes, all Boccioni bronzes are posthumous.

Next in the pecking order are bronzes made directly from the plaster, seen as the most true to the original after an artist has died. Such is the case with the Tates Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, which Christies points out was also cast in 1972, without labouring the different moulds.

This is not to diminish the importance of the Christies work. For art students, the static yet in-motion sculpture, is the embodiment of the Futurist manifesto. The image is instantly recognisable to many, not least because it features on the Italian 20 cent coin. Only ten pieces were made in the same way, of which only eight—including the Christies piece—were numbered. All were modelled from a highly-reputed, early bronze owned by Count Paolo Marinotti and under the supervision of the Rome dealer Claudio Bruni Sakraischik, who had sought legal advice on copyright, according to Coen. Examples from the same surmoulage casting can now be found in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Kunsthalle Mannheim, among other museums. “Its an icon of the 20th century and these surmoulages have been done very well,” says the sculpture specialist Simon Stock, a director at Gagosian Gallery.

But Stock, and other experts, question how readily such a complicated piece would have come to sale in the pasRead More – Source

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