Which Madonna Is It?

Which Madonna Is It?
signed 'Ela Menon' (upper right)
oil and pentimento on board
22 7/8 x 18 7/8 in. (58.1 x 47.9 cm)
Painted in 1996
Apparao Gallery, Chennai
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1996


Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department


Over the course of her artistic career, which spans more than six decades, Anjolie Ela Menon produced a body of work that defies categorization. However, the various subjects and figures that she explored over the span of these years, all congregate in her Mutations series of pentimenti from 1996. The works in this series combine images from her most well-known paintings, which are then digitally manipulated, printed out and painted over.

Speaking of the role of chance in the images that were produced as a result of this process, Menon noted, “the overlapping images have manifested themselves, often in spite of me… maybe the final choices were still intuitive and depended upon the ‘eye’… virtually hundreds of possible combinations, juxtapositions and ‘color ways’ occur almost in the nature of a volley of kaleidoscopic pictures… out of these, I choose, edit, prune, workover, bathe in color washes… and in the final works, forms and figures recognizable as from some past life, recede, fade and reappear continually like pentimenti… I am humbled by the fact that in reassembling them now I play only a minor role – like a curator” (Artist statement, I. Murti, Anjolie Ela Menon: Through the Patina, New Delhi, 2010, p. 329).

The title of the present lot, Which Madonna Is It?, references a series of Menon’s works from the 1960s inspired by Christian imagery. Following her studies in Paris where she was introduced to early Christian art, the artist began to experiment with medieval European techniques of layering paint to create texture and also incorporated medieval religious imagery in her work. Her versions of the Madonna are painted in a manner reminiscent of medieval icons, frontal with a slightly averted head.

The composition of Which Madonna Is It? also draws from a later phase of her practice, dating to the 1970s. During this time, as her children were growing older, her figures began to be embedded into narratives rife with childhood nostalgia. Elements from these paintings and other important bodies of Menon’s work are adeptly woven into the surrealist landscape of the present lot, with kites and sailboats floating along its margins.

更多来自 聚焦人像:罗米·兰巴珍藏南亚现代及当代艺术