λ Henry Moore (British 1898-1986)
Head of Queen (Study)
Bronze with a green patina
Signed (at base of neck)
Height: 28cm (11 in.) (including base)
Conceived in 1952 and cast in 1959 in an edition of two plus one artist's proof.
Finart Gallery Ltd., Johannesburg, South Africa
Private Collection, London (acquired from the above in 1974)
Thence by descent to the present owners
Alan Bowness, ed., Henry Moore Sculpture and Drawings 1949-1954, vol. II , London, 1965, no. 349a, illustration of another cast p. 49
Robert Melville, Henry Moore Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1969 , New York, 1970, p. 357, illustration of another cast pl. 452
Head of Queen (Study) is one of several preparatory works produced by Moore for the large-scale group sculpture King and Queen (LH 350 ). Both the studies and the final sculpture are unusual within Moore's repertoire, representing a defined subject rather than the usual universal human form. They are also the only sculptures depicting a single pair of adult figures in Moore's entire output. Moore himself offered up the following explanation, although others have suggested that the timing of the piece with the coronation of Elizabeth II cannot have failed to impress a certain interest upon the artist:
"The 'King and Queen' is rather strange. Like many of my sculptures, I can't explain exactly how it evolved. Anything can start me off on a sculpture idea, and in this case it was playing with a small piece of modelling wax. ... Whilst manipulating a piece of wax, it began to look like a horned, Pan-like, bearded head. Then it grew a crown and I recognised it immediately as the head of a king. I continued, and gave it a body. When wax hardens, it is almost as strong as metal. I used this special strength to repeat in the body the aristocratic refinement I found in the head. Then I added a second figure to it and it became a 'King and Queen'. I realised now that it was because I was reading stories to Mary, my six-year-old daughter, every night, and most of them were about kings and queens and princesses."
Henry Moore in Henry Spencer Moore, photographed and edited by John Hedgecoe, words by Henry Moore, Nelson, London: Simon and Schuster, New York 1968, p.221
This small study shows the angular head of the queen perforated by a single hole in place of the eyes, its thin face has been extensively worked and scratched adding texture and depth to the surface. The Queen's head used in the completed group sculpture was much softer and less angular than his preparatory studies. In the present work, Moore's working process is laid bare as he experiments with both the form and the surface. Each mark a permanent memory of the artist's touch, the present work has its own beauty and serves as a key insight into the development of an idea.
In 1968, Moore recalled that 'the head of the Queen was a problem because it had to be in harmony and I made two or three different attempts at it before being satisfied.' cited in John Hedgecoe, Henry Moore, London, 1968, p.221. Moore felt it was important that the King's head didn't overshadow that of the Queen. The Queen's head had to stand in unison with the strong and distinctive nature of the sculptural and angular King's head, whilst still keeping her own sense of identity.
One of casts of LH349a is held in the public collection of Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec, Canada, a gift of Dr and Mrs Max Stern in 1984. The plaster is held by the Henry Moore Foundation.