Joan Miró (1893-1983)
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Joan Miró (1893-1983)

Femme assise

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Femme assise
signed 'Miró' (lower right); signed, dated, titled and inscribed 'JOAN MIRÓ. "Femme assise." 6/7/1938. HAUT' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
6¼ x 8 5/8 in. (16 x 22 cm.)
Painted on 6 July 1938
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, by 1941.
Florence Maisel, Redbank, New Jersey.
Galería Theo, Madrid.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1978.
J. Dupin, Joan Miró, Life and Work, London, 1962, no. 500, p. 522 (illustrated).
J. Dupin & A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Paintings, 1931-1941, Paris, 2000, no. 589, p. 204 (illustrated).
Madrid, Galería Theo, Joan Miró, May - June 1978 (illustrated).
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.


Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas


Femme assise belongs to a series of seven paintings executed by Joan Miró at intense pace within a short space of time in July 1938 (Dupin, 588-594). Oscillating from aggressiveness to sentimentality, the group presents a series of gesticulating characters whose deformed bodies and grimacing faces evoke the primordial emotions of vivid memories and dreams. The second painting from that series, Femme assise portrays a seated woman, depicted as a creature with a menacing open mouth. Set alone against a bare background, the flowing, sinuous forms of her limbs create visual abstract patterns on the surface of the painting, recalling the five-points shape of a star, a motif which her right hand reiterates.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Miró was forced to leave his native land; he would not return until 1940. Away from the conflict, but sensitive to its tragedies, Miró let the fantastic surrogates of his anxieties surface on his canvases. Threatening and monstrous, Femme assise exchanges the image of the woman-mother with that of a woman-insect: her teeth protrude like voracious claws, while her breast - the symbol of maternal care - has been transformed into a spiky tail ready to strike. In its deformity, Femme assise relates to the much celebrated series of pastels which Miró executed in 1934, in which the female form undergoes a terrifying chain of transformations. That series inaugurated what the art critic Jacques Dupin defined as Miró's peintures sauvages period, extending from 1934 to 1938 and encompassing a series of paintings in which human forms appear stretched and contorted, rendered in pulsing iridescent colours. Femme assise shares the disquiet of those works, voicing Miró's conscious or unconscious emotional response to the lacerating conflict in his native Spain.

Compared with the biomorphic melting bodies of the peintures sauvages, Femme assise appears more controlled. Reducing each compositional element to its essential character, Miró has achieved a greater synthesis of forms. While in other works, he modelled colours and resorted to a varied palette, in Femme assise he applied colours in flat areas limiting himself to a few contrasting values - blue and red, white and black. In this regard, Femme assise exemplifies the 'sign's crystallisation' which Dupin perceived in Miró's art in 1938. Still entrenched in the violent energy of the disruptions of the peintures sauvages, Femme assise features those simplified signs which would continue to develop and expand throughout his career. Indeed, the single outlines combined with the chequered superimposition of the colours prefigure the formal language which Miró elaborated in the Constellations, the great series of gouaches he executed in 1941 in spirit of a personal rebellion and escape from the Second World War.