The painter Moise Kisling and another friend tried to
take Modigliani's death mask, but not being sculptors, they
were inadequate to the task, and secured the help of Jacques
Lipchitz. The mask exudes a serenity and repose that Modigliani seems to have lacked completely in life.
Before Brancusi, Picasso may have meant most to Modigliani, though the Spaniard was only three years older and
had, so far, produced barely more than a half dozen pieces
of sculpture. "Picasso would give it a kick if he saw it," Modigliani said to a visitor, Louis Latourette, who had come
to his Montmartre studio and admired the torso of an actress.
"That's only a misfire," Modigliani explained, and added:
"One should judge without sentimentality. After all, that's
only to begin again in another and better way. In any case,
I've half a mind to chuck painting altogether and stick to
sculpture, which I prefer."
But according to Jeanne Modigliani, her father did not
discover Nadelman's sculpture until 1913 (at the second
one-man show at the Calerie Druet).
Lipchitz erred only insofar as several stone heads-not
necessarily identical with those he saw-were exhibited in 1912, in the tenth Salon. The catalogue lists seven heads
("a decorative ensemble") by Modigliani. A year earlier, Modigliani had shown several sculptures at the studio of his
Portuguese-born painter-friend Amedeo de Suza Cardoso, on
Rue du Colonel Combes.
A small marble head is owned by Jean Masurel in Roubaix, France. Most other extant stone carvings by Modigliani are
made of limestone such as the Pierre d'Euville which is
quarried near a small town in eastern France, south of Verdun
(it has a sandy or granular appearance, generally gray to buff
colored, and is softer and easier to carve than marble, but,
because of its physical structure which is less compact than
that of marble, it does not take a high polish). He liked to
obtain stones shaped like columns or pillars, and always retained the original form of the stone into which he would
hew or scratch the significant details. At one point Modigliani turned to wood, probably to avoid the unpleasant physical effects he suffered from working in stone. To obtain this
wood, he is said to have stolen, with the aid of a painter
friend, railroad ties from a nearby Métro station. Douglas
must have seen several of the wood carvings, for he writes
that all were "exactly of the dimensions of railway crossties."
With the exception of the one sold at auction in 1951 and reproduced in this book, they have disappeared. They shared the
fate of the sculptures polychromes mentioned by Zadkine.
One also wonders what to make of a recollection, to be found
in From Renoir to Picasso, by Michel Georges-Michel:
"In the gardens of a big industrialist on the Riviera, I saw
a number of admirable statues by Modigliani, and, among
others, one that he had carved for his own tomb and that
of his wife . . ." There is no additional information to be
Once Modigliani, as was his habit, helped himself to a
stone in a building lot one evening after the laborers had gone
home. He worked on it for hours, then, leaving his sculpture
half-finished, returned home. When he came back the next
morning, the statue had disappeared-it had somehow been
incorporated into the building.
We know now that many tribes had real, professional
artists (see Africa: The Art of the Negro Peoples, by
Elsy Leuzinger ). The affinity between Modigliani's art and Negro
sculpture is now generally accepted. When, in April 1951,
Perls Galleries in New York hung drawings by Modigliani
alongside masks and figures from the Ivory Coast, valuable
light was shed on the formation of Modigliani's style.
If Modigliani ever had formulated his ideas in writing,
they could have been almost identical with those expressed
by a younger contemporary, the American John B. Flannagan,
who wrote as follows: "To that instrument of the subconscious, the hand of the sculptor, there exists an image within
every rock. The creative act of realization merely frees it
. . ." According to Flannagan, the sculptor's goal is ". . . the
austere elimination of the accidental for ordered simplification
. . . the greatest possible preservation of cubic compactness
. . . even to preserve the identity of the original rock so that
it hardly seems carved."