Lecture 015.011

A PLASTICINE-MADE MODEL FOR BENEDICTION BY JACQUES LIPCHITZ (1891-1973)
BY SUZANNA YASEMIN ETYEMEZ

This research has been conducted within the frameset of a diploma thesis at Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden (Academy of Fine Arts Dresden). The project will continue in autumn 2015. After his flight from Paris,cubist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz (1891-°©‐1973) emigrated to
New York. Here, as one of his first large scale pieces in this new setting, he developed the work
Benediction, whose bronze cast had been commissioned by MoMA in 1945. In 2013, long after the artist had passed away, the plasticine-°©‐made model for this sculpture still remained in his
studio as rare proof of the artist’s frequent use of this material. Not only its rarity, but also the sheer size and physical presence make this model a fascinating object: reaching 2.60 meters in height, and weighing almost a ton, the plasticine figure is fragile and vulnerable. Following the
clearance of the artist’s studio, it was donated to Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, and thus made its
way to Saxonia, Germany. Comparisons of Benediction to other works within Lipchitz’ oeuvre
highlight how the artist continues to develop the idea for the Benediction cycle within several
versions. Divergences between model and the actual bronze cast allow an interesting insight in
the working technique of this highly productive artistand also emphasize the role of the model
within a process, that usually involves multiple steps and a range
of skilled workers.Therefore,it can be traced back how the model functions as an intermediate position not only within the manufacture of Benediction, but also within the whole Benediction
cycle. Moreover, technical examination of the plasticine model naturally finds the artist’s
“fingerprints” and reveals details of his workflow; but also explains the almost devastating condition, in which the model had arrived at the conservation studio. In combination with scientific analysis it led to better understanding in how
far ageing of the plasticine as well as cross-°©‐reactions with various other materials involved
lead to the severe degradation processes that can easily be observed. The fact of it being a model raises questions toward conservation treatments and future display:
What defines the quality of a model versus a “completed” piece? Is it the wealth of technical information it reveals, that should be passed on to the visitors? Is it the aesthetical quality we admire? The museum’s wish to present the model to visitors sets the outlines for the decision making process and following test series to determine possible conservation treatment of the piece. Due to complimentary scientific analyses, the role of preventive conservation and the importance of appropriate environmental conditions cannot be stressed sufficiently.

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