Claudel’s work has become more recognised both academically and commercially in recent times. Prices have risen over the last five years and most recently a 20-lot sale of works from the Claudel family home at Artcurial in Paris in November had more than half the works pre-empted by French museums.
Torso of a Crouching Woman was one of two small bronze casts of the work made in 1913. Measuring 14in (35cm) high, it was originally executed as a plaster model in 1884-5. While the plaster model is now lost and other bronze cast is in a French museum, this example had previously sold from the family of the artist at Sotheby’s in June 2014 where it fetched a premium-inclusive £542,500.
The figure of a woman’s body crouching on the floor, with no head or arms and the left knee cut off, appears to signify Claudel’s tumultuous relationship with Rodin. Senior curator of sculpture and decorative arts at the Getty Anne-Lise Desmas said: “While the back and the chest display a natural sensuality, the position of the body folded on itself and the deliberate fragmentary composition expresses introspective meditation, suffering and the solitude of the individual faced with herself.”
The amount paid by the Getty was not disclosed, but Katz had exhibited the piece at TEFAF Maastricht in March where it was reportedly priced around £2m. It has become the first work by the artist in the Getty, with only six others currently in American museums.
Desmas said: “The Getty Museum already owns masterpieces by women sculptors such as Luisa Roldàn, called La Roldana (1652-1706), Barbara Hepworth (1903-74), and Elisabeth Frink (1930-93). I am delighted we can add a masterpiece by Claudel, who deserves the increasing devotion she is getting in France.”
The other Getty acquisition from Katz was one of five lifetime casts of Rodin’s Bust of John the Baptist – derived from the artist’s full-length statue of the saint.
Desmas said: “The very fine chiseling and nuanced variation of texture in the hair, beard, flesh, bony forehead and skeletal neck attest to the high quality of this bronze.”
The purchase follows the Getty’s acquisition in 2015 of a marble sculpture by Rodin, Christ and Mary Magdalene, which was also bought from Katz.
The two sculptures will go on view at the Getty this summer.