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The sculpture represents the lower part of a woman’s torso. The representation, however, is not homogeneous. The surface is divided into three distinctly treated parts. Each of these treatments corresponds to a specific tradition in sculpture.

The smooth side represents a quarter of a woman’s pelvis. The highly simplified rendering seems to suggest an inspiration from antiquity, which until the end of the eighteenth century was the major reference of artistic creation. Depicting here only a partial figure, Brancusi elaborates on a concept begun in the Renaissance when fragments of antique sculpture were found, admired and displayed.

Only when seen together with the smooth aspect can the rough side be identified as another part of a woman’s pelvis. In this way, the viewer is made to participate in a creative process as described by Michelangelo, who repeatedly said that he saw the human form in the raw block of marble, before it was actually sculpted.

There is a third side to Torso, which at first glance looks “neglected.” The different lines on the surface, preparatory devices for a smooth finish, betray the hand of the sculptor and refer to a long-lasting discussion about the status of a work as complete – Michelangelo, who was initially involved in this controversy, argued that a sculpture is complete only when the artist declares it to be.

   

Constantin Brancusi
Torso of a Young Girl (
1922), Stone
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums

   

Aristide Maillol
Torso, Study for Venus (1925 and cast 1960), Bronze

Private Collection, St. Louis

   
 
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