Venerated in his country and recognised the world over, this great 20th-century Croatian sculptor is rarely presented in France. We wager that with this high-relief attributed to him, he will find a well-deserved place in collectors' hearts.
The female figure with half-closed eyes, seemingly spellbound by the sounds of her harp, echoes the Symbolist aesthetic, further emphasised by the "S"-shaped silhouette with its curves and counter-curves. Yet as its assumed creator Ivan Mestrovic, one of Croatia's great modern sculptors, conceived it in around 1932, it falls more in line with his return to the antique at this point in the decade. While this monoxylous high-relief (i.e. shaped from a single piece of thick wood) with its powerful direct carving bears no signature, two extant replicas place it firmly in the artist's output. One identical Woman with Harp, this time in white marble, can be admired in the Ionic portico of the Mestrovic gallery in Split, Croatia – a museum dedicated to the artist, set up in the magnificent villa he had built before the last war. Another copy of the work can be found in the Musée National d'Art Moderne in the Centre Georges-Pompidou, with the inventory number "JP 87 S". This version is a large relief in bronze, bought directly from the artist by the French State between 2013 and 2015, and presented in the new hang of the MNAM's collections entitled "Modernités plurielles" ("Multiple Modernities"). Like the specialist Marc Lallement, we might wonder whether the panel here was a preparatory work for these two listed pieces.