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Cat. No. 535 (reprint)

The Symbols, plate 3 of 9, from the portfolio, Quarantania

Only state
1942, reprinted 1990
Quarantania (View All)
Abstraction, Objects
Smooth, wove Arches paper
plate: 5 x 7 3/8" (12.7 x 18.8 cm); sheet: 18 5/8 x 12 15/16" (47 x 33 cm)
"Louise Bourgeois" lower right margin, pencil.
Galerie Lelong, Paris
Piero Crommelynck, Paris
50; plus 10 A.P. (numbered I-X)
"EA III/X" lower left margin, pencil, unknown hand.
"EA III/X" lower center colophon, pencil, unknown hand.
Edition Information:
There are four known impressions of the only state, outside the edition.

The colophon for the “Quarantania” portfolio states that “some [compositions] are individually titled, sometimes with a few variations.” It appears that Bourgeois occasionally inscribed titles or alternative titles while she was signing the prints.
Since Galerie Lelong was exhibiting Bourgeois's sculpture, Jean Frémon, a gallery director, proposed undertaking a print project with her. It was decided to reprint plates executed earlier and still in Bourgeois's possession, because this work was unknown to the public. In 1990, after the plates had been stored for more than forty years, they were newly printed by Piero Crommelynck, and published for this portfolio. Only "Quarantania" (9), titled "Bosom Lady" in the 1940s, was reworked in 1990 by the artist.

The 1990 reprints differ in appearance from the 1940s impressions, due to corrosion of the plates and accidental scratching over time. Also, professional printing with uniform inking and wiping creates a darker plate tone. The prints were gathered in a portfolio to represent the work from the 1940s, with the title "Quarantania," deriving from the French "quarante," meaning "forty."

In preparing this project, proofs were also pulled from other old plates in the artist's possession. However, the poor condition of those plates made it impossible to achieve acceptable impressions (see "Youth," 1941-1944; "Laurel Easton," 1944; "Dame," 1948; and "The Burner," 1948). Proofs were also pulled from a 1970s and a 1980s plate. These were editioned and published as "Spirales," c. 1974, and "Femme Maison," 1984. Bourgeois chose a cover resembling that of "He Disappeared into Complete Silence," 1947 because she saw "Quarantania" as a continuation of that work.
Artist’s Remarks:
This grid is another attempt "to keep things in order.... I tried to keep a record of everything by making a kind of puzzle. But looking at it reminds me that things are always missing. I don't really like that." (Quote cited in Wye, Deborah and Carol Smith. "The Prints of Louise Bourgeois." New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p. 63.)
Installation Remarks:
The 9 compositions that make up this portfolio can be exhibited together, in any order, or individually.
Curatorial Remarks:
It is conceivable that there were one or more states prior to this one. However, no known impressions of earlier states exist.

The colophon for the “Quarantania” portfolio states that the plates were engraved by Bourgeois at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 workshop in 1947. However, dates for the compositions vary and the fact that all were engraved and printed at Hayter’s workshop could not be confirmed. At this time, Bourgeois also worked on prints at home with a small press.
Former Cat. No.:
W & S 23
MoMA Credit Line:
Gift of the artist
MoMA Accession Number:
This Work in Other Collections:
Bibliothéque Nationale de France, Paris
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE
Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland
Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (Impression no. 17/50)

The Symbols, plate 3 of 9, from the portfolio, Quarantania
1942; reprinted and published in 1990


Louise Bourgeois. The Symbols. 1942
Only state
Louise Bourgeois. The Symbols. 1942
Only state
Louise Bourgeois. The Symbols. 1942
Only state, variant
Published Louise Bourgeois. The Symbols, plate 3 of 9, from the portfolio, Quarantania. 1942, reprinted 1990
Only state
1942, reprinted 1990