• Madonna and Child - Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Madonna and Child - Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Madonna and Child - Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Madonna and Child - Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Madonna and Child - Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Madonna and Child - Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Madonna and Child - Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Madonna and Child - Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Madonna and Child - Henry Moore, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
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Madonna and Child

Henry Moore

(English, 1898-1986)

Bronze with a dark brown patina
Height: 6 1/8" (15.5 cm)

Conceived and cast in 1943
Edition of 7

Henry Moore was one of the greatest 20th-century’s sculptors and after the Second World War he became Britain’s best-known artist, both at home and abroad. He was influenced by European Modernism and developed an abstract sculptural language combining the human figure, particularly the female figure, with references to organic forms such as shells, pebbles and bones. Throughout his career, he focused on the subjects of the mother and child, the reclining figure, the standing figure, and the head.

The current bronze is a model for Moore’s first major public commission, his Horton stone Madonna and Child, 1943, at St Matthew’s Church, Northampton. This was commissioned by Rev Walter Hussey. Moore found the assignment hugely taxing – describing it as ‘one of the most difficult and heart-searching sculptures that I’ve ever tried to do’.

Henry Moore Madonna and Child, 1943, Horton Stone, St Matthew’s Church, Norhampton

Initially Moore made tens of preliminary sketches and then a series of 12 clay maquettes for the final sculpture, a selection of these were then cast in bronze. As the earliest example of Moore using clay for preparatory experiment (until that stage Moore had been predominantly a carver of wood and stone) the group are seen as a hugely important step in the artist’s early career, and a precursor to his making smaller models commercially available, which were then often sized up into monumental sculptures.

Henry Moore, Madonna and Child, 1943, Coloured crayon, wax crayon, watercolour, pen and ink on paper

Maquettes for Henry Moore’s Madonna and Child, 1943 (the present model is on the far left)

David Sylvester, who worked with the artist as his personal assistant, suggested that:

‘working in clay helped Moore grasp the tactile as well as the visual plasticity of forms because he could reconstruct them with his hands and thus attain a profounder sense of their volume’. He stated, ‘the properties of clay enabled Moore to model his works with greater spontaneity and freedom, making it easier to transform an idea conceived on paper into a three-dimensional form.’

Sylvester also stated that:

‘Moore had always made maquettes for his larger sculptures, but it was not until he cast about half-a-dozen of the ten or so clay studies for the Northampton Madonna that he began to make bronzes of them. The bronzes were produced to be sold privately, and probably helped off-set the cost of the commission. Moore’s turn to making multiple bronze casts drastically altered the type of work he was able to produce, and provided more opportunities to sell his work.’

These specific smaller models for the Madonna and Child commission are hugely sought-after and are in many important museums. The Tate alone holds four of the bronzes in their collection. All four of Tate’s Madonna and Child maquettes were then exhibited in Moore’s solo exhibition at the British Pavilion at the 1948 Venice Biennale, at which Moore won the International Sculpture Prize, cementing his position as Britain’s ‘greatest living sculptor’.

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