Collection of Modern Religious Art, Inv. 23153
Spaniard (Guadalajara) by birth, José de Creeft moved in 1905 to
Paris, and in 1929 emigrated to the United States. His strongest
affiliation is with New York. He is the author of the well-known 1918
war memorial, “Le Poilu” in Saugues (France), and in 1951 he sculpted
the “Poet” for the Fairmont Park Association in Philadelphia. In styles
ranging from Art Moderne to Expressionism, de Creeft created a
cornucopia of artworks of great opulence. Interested in the sculptural
art of Africa and pre-Columbian America, he wished to preserve the
natural qualities of the material used, mainly wood and stone. We find
here the origin of de Creeft’s obsession with direct carving. He
was no stranger to casting, and experimented for a short time with
assemblage techniques. But his first and permanent love was direct
carving which he helped to popularize from 1930 on.
Our sculpture, called Sleep, is the result of direct carving.
It explores the contrasts between finished and roughly worked areas.
Hands and faces of mother and child present smooth and even shiny
surfaces, while the cape of the Madonna retains the unfinished roughness
of a protective shell. Dated 1972, this marble sculpture is compact and
of great density, but does not attempt to project harmony of form or
perfection of proportions. The influence of pre-Columbian art is
noticeable; however, the forms are more rounded and the faces less
angular and almost without profile. The theme is of universal and basic
importance: sleep. The Madonna, with a gesture of enveloping tenderness,
makes a cradle of her body and puts the baby to sleep. The sleep of the
Baby Jesus is a popular theme. It is known in music (Silent Night),
and art (Epinal Images), and highlights the humanity of Christ.
He is one of us, entrusted to us, entrusting himself to our attention
and care. Where God himself finds sleep there must be peace. De Creeft’s
sculpture has a therapeutic effect. It is an invitation to peaceful
intimacy with Jesus.
For more information:
Consult the exhibit catalog:
The Mother of God:
Art Celebrates Mary,