Deconstruction of the Planes of a Lamp, 1912-13
Scomposizione dei piani di un lume
Oil on fibreboard
45 x 35 cm
With its muted tones, static subject matter and multiple perspectives, this work highlights Ardengo Soffici’s profound understanding of Cubism. To the left of the image stands an oil lamp surmounted by a cluster of triangular forms that offer different views of its shade. A number of sweeping arcs and circular forms suggest the lamp’s rounded base and the rim of the wine glass standing alongside it. A friend of Picasso, Soffici was initially hostile to the Futurists, who physically assaulted him in 1911 for having published a scathing review of their work. However, he subsequently joined the movement, and displayed this transitional piece at one of its group shows in Rome in early 1913. The evolution of Soffici’s thinking is revealed by an essay of the following year, in which he insisted that “modernity is the indispensable condition for all the arts, as far as subject is concerned”. However, he would distance himself from Futurism once again following the First World War, having made important contributions to its development – particularly in the spheres of art theory and typography. The Futurist leader F. T. Marinetti purchased this work from Soffici in 1913, and wrote to thank the artist “for having given me the pleasure of seeing in my living room a painting which impressed me from the first day I saw it. – In general, I concern myself little with the walls of my house, but your painting will be a very dear exception, among the few very dear ones.” It remained in the family collection until 1950, when Eric Estorick bought it from Benedetta Marinetti – the widow of Futurism’s founder, and an important artist in her own right.
In 2015, an image of bathing women was discovered on the rear of the painting, hidden by the complex framing system that had protected the work for decades. Dating from c. 1910-11, and painted in a ‘primitivist’ style, it depicts two female figures standing side by side. The first, on the left, turns her back toward the viewer with her arms raised, while the other woman faces the viewer and holds a sheet or towel across the lower half of her body.