Head of a Sleeping Child
Hobita, Gorj, Romania, 1876—Paris, France, 1957
This small sculpture by Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi, entitled Head of a Sleeping Child and measuring five inches long, captures the tender likeness of the artist’s godchild, Alice Poiana. Cast in bronze in 1908 from a plaster model, the artwork depicts the child asleep, leaning on one cheek. Brancusi created this sculpture at a pivotal moment, as he was shifting away from an academic style and moving towards abstraction, in search of what he called “the essence of things.” He would continue to engage with the theme of the child and the sleeping head throughout his career. The beginning of that study, Head of a Sleeping Child still shows some of the sitter’s features, as opposed to later, more abstract work. Yet he shies away from portraiture, roughly rendering the child’s head and separating it from the body, as if a piece of found antiquity. In this bronze cast of the plaster form, Brancusi captures the marks and imperfections of his carving process, from the deep chisel marks on the side of the head to the broken curl at the top, contrasted with the smoothed cheeks and forehead. His approach reminds the viewer of the sculpture’s material nature, in this depiction of a sleeping child.