Constantin Brancusi

French, born Romania (Hobita, Romania, 1876 - 1957, Paris, France)

La Négresse blonde (The Blond Negress)

sculpture | bronze, marble, and limestone base
Not on view at this time; find out where you can see works from our collection at locations around the Bay Area while our building is closed for expansion
  • La Négresse blonde (The Blond Negress)

    Constantin Brancusi, La Négresse blonde (The Blond Negress), 1926; bronze, marble, and limestone base, 70 3/4 in. x 10 3/4 in. x 10 3/4 in. (179.71 cm x 27.31 cm x 27.31 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Gift of Agnes E. Meyer and Elise S. Haas; © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Fusing the traditions of classical sculpture with Romanian, African, Egyptian, and, later, even industrial forms, Brancusi's groundbreaking works introduced abstraction and primitivism into sculptural practice. They were as important to the development of Modernism as the paintings of Pablo Picasso.

Brancusi's sculptural vocabulary consisted of relatively few highly distilled forms, one of the most significant being the ovoid or egg shape that is the basis for La Négress blonde. The title of the work makes reference to an African woman Brancusi had met in Marseilles. The perfect, upturned ovoid serves as the woman's head. Her distinguishing features are reduced to a pair of full lips, a chignon, and a zigzag ornament at the back of the neck, perhaps denoting a scarf or the lower part of her coiffure. The sculpture's pedestal comprises a cylinder, a Greek cross, and a plinth that can be read as the woman's body, shoulders, and neck. The bronze portion of the sculpture, however, can also be interpreted as the body of a golden fish, the top and rear embellishments becoming its dorsal and tail fins. The highly polished surface allows the viewer to contemplate the contrast between the simplicity of the sculpture and the complexity of his or her own reflection.

In attempting to capture the "essence of things," Brancusi broke with the Western tradition of representing the world in a realistic manner and paved the way for twentieth-century sculptural abstraction. His work was radical for its time, and when detractors refused to consider it art, his friend and peer Marcel Duchamp came to his defense, arguing, "To say that the sculpture of Brancusi is not art is like saying an egg is not an egg."

70 3/4 in. x 10 3/4 in. x 10 3/4 in. (179.71 cm x 27.31 cm x 27.31 cm)
Acquired 1958
Collection SFMOMA
Gift of Agnes E. Meyer and Elise S. Haas
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


women, heads, streamlined, reflective, bases, topknots, lips

From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at to verify artwork details.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.