Sleeping Muse, Brancusi
Constantin Brancusi is a Romanian artist who studied in the “Beaux-Arts de Paris”. He appears as one of the most influential sculptor of the XXth century. Indeed he widely opened the door to surrealism in sculpture.
La Muse endormie (“Spleeping Muse“) deals, to me, with all the ingenuity of the artist. It is a 16x25x18 centimetres polished bronze sculpture modeled in 1910.
First, take your time to observe the piece of art. Let it talk to you. I insist, take your time!
My question: did it make you experience any feeling?
If it did, you can stop reading my article here. Because Art does not need to be always analysed. It means that Art is not perpetually about intelligence; indeed a wide range of master pieces are appreciated for disturbing, only through their artistic strength. But, of course, you are welcome to read the rest if you want to understand what could have unconsciously touched you.
If not I will try to communicate to you what I understood about it and made me be interested in it.
“Sleeping Muse” is obviously dozing, as she has her eyes closed. This aspect could represent her gentleness and stability. Indeed, the material which forms the face seems smooth. And while looking at her the spectator can feel kind of appeased.
Moreover, the fact of being put on a support highlight her deep sleep. But it could also symbolize that she is down on earth.
However, she also looks beheaded but she inspires the tranquility of passing away. At the same time the sculpture has a function of memento mori, for reminding the spectators of the fact that death is ubiquitous and it will reach every human being.
Nonetheless the “Muse” epitomizes inspiration, and the idea of only representing her head bears two different interpretations. What is more, the face has an ovoid shape symbolizing the cradle or the birthplace of reflection, fears, ideas,… On the one hand, she shows the eternal incompleteness of a master piece, as there is always something to add, to modify, to erase. On the other hand, it could be an allegory of inspiration and imagination which is infinitely flourishing when creating. Or impossible to find sometimes: “the writer’s block”. These two dimensions of inspiration are accentuated by the fact that the head is the nest of it. Furthermore the material which constitutes the sculpture is reflecting. Thus, the spectator can see himself on this head. Maybe he is inspiring for the Muse and more generally for the artist who built it and who finds inspirations by observing his surroundings;
though this refined face represents Brancusi’s Muse: Renée Irana Franchon.
However, the way her features are outlined, it could be anyone, making it easier for the viewer to identify himself with this face embedding many symbols and common problems. The viewer can find answers to his anxieties.
This masterpiece resides in the paradox of life and death, illustrating the artist and the spectator’s interrogations about inspiration.
PS: the Sleeping Muse can be seen at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 4th arrondissement.