8 known photocopy studies; 1 known metal stamp study
In 1990, Bourgeois began the first version of "Sainte Sébastienne" with Christian Guérin, of Gravure, New York, as printer. She discontinued work after completing state IX. (For state IX the printer was Harlan & Weaver, New York.) After more than a year, in 1991, she executed state X, which was again printed by Harlan & Weaver. She then discontinued work on the first version without issuing a published edition at that time. In 1992, she resumed the project with Harlan & Weaver as printer, this time enlarging the image to create a second version, which was published that year by Peter Blum Edition, New York.
In 1993, she went back to the first version, creating states XI-XII and publishing state XII in two editions, one in 1993 and the other in 1994. In 1993, state XII was published as "Stamp of Memories I" by Peter Blum Edition. It was hand stamped using a metal stamp depicting an ornate version of the initials "LB" which belonged to the artist's father, Louis Bourgeois. "Stamp of Memories II" was published in 1994, also by Peter Blum Edition. This edition of state XII was hand stamped with the artist's personal metal stamp, depicting a geometric version of the initials "LB." Both metal stamps were the type used for sealing letters with wax.
In the later states of version 1 (states V, X-XII), Bourgeois depicts three eggs within the figure's upswept hair. She referred to these as her three children. The artist used the same symbolism in the engraving "Bosom Lady" of 1948 and in "Dancing Insect" of 1999 (see Related Works in the Catalogue below). Bourgeois had three sons: Michel, Jean-Louis, and Alain.
About the source drawing, 1987: "This is a self-portrait of a person who is very happy and running and then suddenly realizes that she has antagonized certain people. She gets shot at. Then she is transformed from a nice, sweet creature into a mean, feline person." (Quote cited in Bourgeois, Louise and Lawrence Rinder. "Louise Bourgeois Drawings and Observations." Berkeley: University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive University of California, Berkeley; Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1995, p. 147.)
"'Sainte Sébastienne' is a self portrait. It's a state of being under attack, of being anxious and afraid. What does a person do when they are under seige? You better understand why you are being attacked. Is it provoked? Is it revenge? Do you fight back, or do you run for cover and retreat into the protection of your own lair? That is the big question." (Quote cited in Fetz, Wolfgang and Gerald Matt. "Saint Sebastian: A Splendid Readiness for Death." Vienna: Kunsthalle Wien; Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2003/2004, p. 23.)
According to Felix Harlan, of Harlan & Weaver, the artist sometimes used photocopies to aid in the process of developing a composition and/or transferring it onto a copper plate. Photocopies for this composition are designated as Studies in the Evolving Composition Diagram below. In the case of "Sainte Sébastienne," Bourgeois first made a photocopy of a 1987 untitled drawing from the exhibition catalogue, "Louise Bourgeois Drawings," produced by Robert Miller, New York and Daniel Lelong, Paris in 1988. This became the basis for the first version.
She then created several additional photocopy studies from this reproduction, experimenting with scale and alterations to the figure's form. These experiments informed the development of the second version, in which the figure appears headless and at a much larger scale. The artist also used photocopies to develop this imagery for a Gobelins tapestry commissioned by the French government (see Related Works in Other Mediums below). The Brooklyn Museum's collection has two impressions that appear to have been used to develop the tapestry.
The inscriptions seen in this photocopy are written in the artist's hand on the original (see Study 1).
Fetz, Wolfgang and Gerald Matt. "Saint Sebastian: A Splendid Readiness for Death." Vienna: Kunsthalle Wien; Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2003/2004. (Catalogue accompanying the group exhibition "Saint Sebastian: A Splendid Readiness for Death" held at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, from November 11, 2003 to May 15, 2004.)
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