EMPTY AND FULL ABSTRACTS OF A HEAD
Sculpted in 1913, final exhibition in 1924, Galleria Bottega di Poesia, Milan, destroyed in 1927 in Acquabella, Milan.
In addition to the striding sculptures, we also decided to reconstruct yet another lost plaster by Boccioni; Empty and Full Abstracts of a Head from 1912. This sculpture was exhibited for the first time in Paris in 1913, where its most famous photograph was taken (1).
The Head is one of two sculptures that Boccioni included in his painting, The Two Friends (1914) (2, detail). It is shown from a 3/4 angle, and this motivated Maurizio Calvesi, the co-author of the official Boccioni Catalogue (2016), to attempt a clay reconstruction.
There are three more photographs from the Paris exhibition where the Head is visible from a distance. According to Calvesi (2016), these only show the front of the Head. However, on closer inspection it is clear that we see the Head from its right side. Indeed, one can even make out the right ear, the left eyebrow that flares out into a cone, the deeply recessed cheek line, and the protruding nose tip and chin (3).
Most interestingly, we managed to identify the Head in yet another photograph (4), and to our knowledge we are the first to do so. Mattioli (2006) misidentifies the sculpture on the shelf to the right as Antigrazioso. Our comparison of various key characteristics (5) makes it clear beyond any doubt that this is indeed the Head. Using the information from all these photographs, we believe that we have produced the most accurate reconstruction of the Head to date (6).
The Head on Boccioni's shelf seems to have been painted or varnished, like what was done with Antigrazioso and Development of a Bottle in Space Through Colour. The photograph was taken in May 1913, a month or so before the Paris exhibition, where the Head suddenly appears white. Boccioni could have painted or varnished the Head, then maybe changed his mind and restored it to white.
[Published April 2020]
Calvesi, Maurizio, & Dambruoso, Alberto, (eds.): Umberto Boccioni: Catalogo generale delle opere (Turin: Allemandi, 2016), p. 445
Mattioli Rossi, Laura (ed.), Boccioni Pittore scultore futurista (Milan: Skira, 2006), p. 146