Constantin Brancusi Maiastra 1910-12

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 500

Maiastra is a towering sculpture, more than seven feet tall, with four distinct parts. The lower sections are made of limestone and comprise two rectilinear blocks separated by a roughly hewn carving that Brancusi exhibited in 1908 as an independent sculpture, titled Double Caryatid. Perched atop this tower, a marble bird—the magical Romanian fairy-tale creature for which the sculpture is named—is reduced to its defining characteristics: ovoid body, elongated neck, beak, and plume of tail feathers. Maiastra is Brancusi’s first work to feature a bird, a subject to which he would return throughout his career.

As a composite of disparate elements, Maiastra is exemplary of the artist’s practice. Brancusi believed that the base was a crucial component of a sculpture, and in making many of his works he experimented with a variety of bases until arriving at a combination of elements he found satisfying, often documenting the work photographically along the way. In Maiastra the rounded, smoothly polished surface of the marble bird contrasts sharply with both the stark angularity of the limestone blocks and the coarsely textured schematic carving of Double Caryatid. For the artist, this juxtaposition of materials and methods embodied the perpetual dialogue between the spiritual dimension and everyday reality.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

Maiastra is Brancusi’s first sculpture of a bird. Its title refers to a mythical creature from Romanian legend. Carved from white marble, the work’s streamlined form accentuates the bird’s elongated neck, swollen chest, and tail feathers, imparting a regal elegance commensurate with the subject on which it is based. Maiastra sits perched on a tall tripartite limestone base, the central component of which began as a freestanding sculpture of two figures bearing a stone on their heads, called Double Caryatid. (A caryatid is an architectural support typically carved in the form of a woman.) Maiastra marks the first time the artist incorporated an existing sculpture into a pedestal, a practice he would continue throughout his career.

Gallery label from Constantin Brancusi Sculpture, 2018
Medium
White marble 22" (55.9 cm) high, on three-part limestone pedestal 70" (177.8 cm) high, of which the middle section is Double Caryatid, c. 1908
Credit
Katherine S. Dreier Bequest
Object number
144.1953.a-d
Copyright
© Succession Brancusi - All rights reserved (ARS) 2018
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Katherine S. Dreier (1877-1952), West Redding and Milford, Connecticut
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Katherine S. Dreier Bequest, 1953

Provenance research is a work in progress, and is frequently updated with new information. If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please email provenance@moma.org or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.