Frances Archipenko Gray has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
While carving Symmetrical Torso during 1922-1923, Archipenko was tapping into the new classicism that in the aftermath of the First World War had begun to flourish in Europe. This idea, however, was not without precedent in his sculpture. If he had recently dispensed with the hard contours, cut-outs, and elaborate convex-concave configuration of formal elements in his cubist figures and sculpto-paintings of the previous decade, he instead sought to emphasize once again that more simplified and reductionist classical impulse which had also been a guiding principle, in such sculptures as the well-known Flat Torso, 1914, and White Torso, 1916.
“By using abstracted–sometimes highly stylized–body forms, Archipenko achieved a renunciation of representation which in turn released new expressive energies,” Christa Lichtenstern has written. “Archipenko discovered a formula for elegantly representing the human body, which could be reconciled with the vague expectations many people had of a smooth, post-Cubist human form” (Canto d’Amore, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel, 1996, pp. 152 and 153).
Although Archipenko had been lauded as the leading and most influential sculptor of the pre-war Paris avant-garde, he was unable to attract a sizable French clientele. The reception accorded his work in Germany, however, was enthusiastic. The Folkwang, Hagen, gave the sculptor his first museum show in 1912. Herwarth Walden introduced Archipenko’s work to the Berlin public at his gallery Der Sturm in 1913, and in 1921 he organized another show that travelled from Berlin to Wiesbaden, Hannover and Munich. A retrospective ran in Potsdam that same year, coinciding with the publication of Theodor Däubler’s Archipenko Album, the first monograph written on the sculptor’s work. During this auspicious year Archipenko married Angelica Schmitz, a leading German sculptress who exhibited under name Gela Forster. Archipenko closed his art school in Paris (while retaining his studio there) and moved to Berlin, where students eagerly enrolled in his new classes.
Two exemplars of the classical taste in contemporary German sculpture had recently died: Wilhelm Lehmbruck in 1919, and Adolf von Hildebrand in early 1921. The time was right for Archipenko’s own revival of classicism to take center stage. While drawing on favorite Renaissance mannerist models, Archipenko imparted a Gothic sensibility to his treatment of the figure. “The Gothic elongation and distortion emanate from religious ideas, ecstasy, and gravitation toward highly soaring divine power,” he wrote. “The Egyptian, Gothic and modern styles, by leaning toward creative abstract qualities, prove that they are subordinated to the same dynamism of nature with its perpetual transforming power which they set out to express” (Archipenko: Fifty Creative Years, New York, 1960, p. 40).
The worsening state of the post-war German economy and political violence in the streets of Berlin led Archipenko in the fall of 1924 to emigrate to America, where he hoped to capitalize on his solo debut at Katherine Dreier and Marcel Duchamp’s Société Anonyme, New York, in 1921. “The esteem in which Archipenko was held as sculptor, first in Germany and later in the United States, reinforces his position as a unique modernist phenomenon in the history of sculpture in the first third of the twentieth century,” Lichtenstern observed. Among contemporary sculptors, even those no less revolutionary, “it was Archipenko who, for many, according to Theodor Däubler, ‘flew highest of all’” (op. cit., 1996, p. 152).
There is only one other known example of the present sculpture in marble, which currently resides at the Indiana University Art Museum.