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A sculpture in pink marble.

The main body of the sculpture is a square of pink marble with roughhewn sides. The top edges are sheared off to make a smaller surface on which sits a finely modeled spiral, hands, and a small figure.

Gallery Text

Louise Bourgeois’s sculpture addresses concerns about childhood, gender, autonomy, aggression, and creativity. She studied mathematics and philosophy at the Sorbonne, but in her childhood, she had learned to draw while assisting her mother in the family business of repairing antique tapestries. Her task was to draw the partial figures and patterns missing from the damaged works, so that they could be replicated by the re-weavers. The finely modeled spiral, hands, and small figure set atop the rough-hewn block of stone are all forms that were part of Bourgeois’s aesthetic language. She repeated these forms in drawings, fabric sculptures, and bronze, but she made clear that it was through sculpture that she could most clearly express her desire “to twist the neck.” In Nature Study, the familiar forms are brought together in a disjointed arrangement that alludes to the broken fragments of antiquity, but also tothe fragmentation of memory. Her early adoption of the surrealists’ belief that artists express the unconscious finds expression here through the most traditional and permanent of sculptural means: carved marble.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Louise Bourgeois, American (Paris, France 1911 - 2010 New York, NY)
Nature Study
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3200, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Classical Sculpture
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Physical Descriptions

Pink marble
88.9 x 68.6 x 53.3 cm (35 x 27 x 21 in.)
1340 lb.
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: L. Bourgeois 1986


Recorded Ownership History
[Robert Miller Gallery, New York, New York], sold; to José Soriano, 1986, gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2005

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of José M. Soriano in memory of Liliane Pingoud Soriano
© The Easton Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Publication History

  • Deborah Wye, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Miller Gallery (New York, NY, 1986)
  • Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 244, ill.
  • Suzanne Volmer, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rebecca Horn, Sculpture, International Sculpture Center (June 2015), Vol. 34, No. 5, p. 70

Exhibition History

  • Nominally Figured: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/08/2006 - 02/25/2007
  • 32Q: 3200 West Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Collection Highlights

Verification Level

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