A Peek into Our Collections: Torso of a Young Girl

November 19, 2014
Constantin Brancusi, Torso of a Young Girl, 1922. Calcite. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, The Lois Orswell Collection, 1998.293. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Showcasing the breadth and depth of our collections—from ancient to modern times and across a variety of media—A Peek into Our Collections offers a window on what is on view in the new Harvard Art Museums, which opened to the public on November 16.

Constantin Brancusi, Torso of a Young Girl, 1922, Romanian, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum.

When Harvard Art Museums conservator Jessica Arista was asked to choose her favorite object in the museums’ collections, she picked Torso of a Young Girl, which she had been working on. “It’s so simple but really changes so subtly in every angle that you look at it,” she said. “I found myself mesmerized as I was cleaning it and sitting with it.”

Constantin Brancusi began a series of torso sculptures in 1908. His early examples are simply body fragments with naturalistic details to indicate the subject, but later works in the series are almost entirely abstracted, including Torso of a Young Girl. The calcite object conveys the translucency of young skin and a shape revealed through direct carving, a method Brancusi favored. He uses a single part to represent the whole human body—an approach that was also important to cubist painting.

See other highlighted objects here.