Constantin Brâncuși Maiastra 1910-12

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 508 The David Geffen Wing

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 Brâncuși 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 Brâncuși’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. Brâncuși 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)
Additional text

For Maiastra, his first sculpture of a bird, Brâncuși made a streamlined form that accentuates the bird’s long neck, swelling chest, and tail feathers. Its regal elegance suits its namesake, a mythical creature from the folklore of the artist’s native Romania. The bird sits perched on a three-part limestone base, whose central component began as an independent sculpture, Double Caryatid (a caryatid being an architectural support carved as a human figure). Maiastra marks the first time Brâncuși incorporated an existing sculpture into a pedestal, a practice he would continue throughout his career.

Gallery label from 2019

Maiastra is Brâncuși’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 Brâncuși Sculpture, 2018
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
Katherine S. Dreier Bequest
Object number
© Succession Brancusi - All rights reserved (ARS) 2018
Painting and Sculpture

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

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