Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968) Crocifisso 1948-1950

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Lot 17AR
Lucio Fontana
(Italian, 1899-1968)

Sold for £ 100,062 (US$ 124,622) inc. premium
Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968)

painted and glazed ceramic

37 by 21.6 by 12.8 cm.
14 9/16 by 8 1/2 by 5 1/16 in.

This work was executed in 1948-1950.


  • This work is registered in the Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan, under no. 2240/16, and is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity.

    Private Collection, France
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    A work of supreme, transcendent beauty, Lucio Fontana's Crocifisso (1948-1950) is a sterling demonstration of the artist's ineffable capacity for pushing his materials and methods to their technical limits. Appearing to emerge from the lustrous black of the painted ceramic cross, arms raised aloft, Fontana's Christ is a devotional image laden with Baroque curlicues, spiritual force, and aesthetic drama that is prototypical of the Spazialismo movement Fontana founded in 1947. An artist revolutionising the aesthetic and theoretical parameters of art in the traumatic fallout of World War II, Fontana's importance as a figurehead of the Modern period cannot be understated. Moulded, painted, and fired during this hugely influential period of cultural redefinition, the present Crocifisso is testament to Fontana's lifelong appreciation of art as a key to the nether dimensions, a means to communicate with and pass through the envelope of our veiled perception. A sculpture of enduring beauty, with comparable works held in the collection of MoMA, New York, and the Musei Vaticani, Rome Fontana's Crocifissioni have formed key displays in retrospective exhibitions of the artist's oeuvre, most recently at the Terra e Oro (Earth and Gold) exhibition at Galleria Borghese in Rome.

    Over the course of one of the most subversive and thought-provoking careers, Fontana consistently challenged predetermined notions of creative methodology. Whilst tackling one of the oldest themes of art history, Fontana's Crocifisso presents a timeless vision of Christ in flux, the feathered tips of clay forming ornate leaves that reach into space, creating deep crevices between the limbs of the soaring Messiah and dissolving the distinction between the body and its support. 'We live in the mechanical age', the artist declared in the Manifesto Blanco, published in Buenos Aires in 1946, 'painted canvas and upright plaster no longer have any reason to exist' ('Manifesto Blanco', 1946 in E. Crispolti and R. Siligato Eds., Lucio Fontana, Milan 1998, p.115). Expressing one of the starkest images of human suffering, Fontana's Crocifisso emerges in the aftermath of global violence and captures the the vision of an artwork that goes beyond its medium and beyond the conditions of the present reality, materialising from a blackened precipice.

    A glazed ceramic that floats and twists with the weightlessness of silk drapery, the present work belies the weight of its earthenware, disguised under ethereal threads of clay and paint. Fontana's sculptures remain overlooked as fundamental objects that offer a significant insight into the artist's practice. Originally trained as a sculptor, first under his father Luigi, before studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan between 1928 and 1930, Fontana's relationship and theoretical interest in the space occupied and delineated by the art object is, first and foremost, grounded in his understanding of sculpture. In the present work this becomes tacitly clear. Modeling and moulding the clay with his hands, the Crocifisso boasts an immaculate surface of fleurettes, crevices and cascades, coalescing and springing from the body of the clay, realising Fontana's vision of 'neither painting nor sculpture [...] but [a] continuity of space in matter' (the artist in: E. Crispolti and R. Siligato Eds., Lucio Fontana, Rome 1998, p.118). Not only is Christ present as a being that transcends notions of the physical and spiritual worlds, but also as one who passes between dimensions, emerging from a lucid, alien form that conjures images of galaxies, neutron stars and the sprawling material of the monumental cosmos.

    The timelessness and supernatural appearance of Fontana's Crocifisso demonstrates the incredible ability of the artist to synthesise art historical, material and stylistic tropes into a single, radical form. To Fontana, '[the] Baroque was a leap ahead [...] it represented space with a magnificence that is still unsurpassed and added the notion of time to the plastic arts. The figures seemed to abandon the flat surface and continue the represented movements in space' ('Manifesto Blanco', 1946, in op. cit.). Projecting from the corpus of the ceramic, the stylistic character of the work is compelling and dynamic, channeling the energy of El Greco's florid Christ on the Cross (1600-1610) with the solidarity of its making. A breathtaking sculpture whose delicacy and craftsmanship is matched by its impassioned visual power, Fontana's Crocifisso is a rare and extraordinary artwork by one of the most important artists of the Twentieth Century.
Lucio Fontana (Italian, 1899-1968) Crocifisso 1948-1950
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