Head, ca. 1910–11

Amedeo Modigliani, Italian, 1884–1920

Head, ca. 1910–11

The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on long-term loan to the Princeton University Art Museum
photo: Bruce M. White

Modigliani shared an interest in African art with other avant-garde Parisian artists, such as Constantin Brancusi and Pablo Picasso. His fascination with West African art in particular is evident in the severe elongation, graphic scoring, narrow nose, and rounded mouth of this sculpted head, reminiscent of masks made by the Baule of today’s Ivory Coast and neighboring tribes such as the Guro. Modigliani also studied Egyptian, Asian, and Indochinese art at museums in Paris. The left ear of the Pearlman head resembles the ears of deities in Buddhist paintings and sculptures, and the hairline shows a series of indentations recalling the scallop-like waves of hair on Buddhist figures.

Jacob Epstein recalled visiting Modigliani’s studio in 1912 and seeing the series of stone heads displayed there:

His studio . . . was then filled with nine or ten of those long heads that were suggested by African masks . . . at night he would place candles on top of each one and the effect was of a primitive temple.