Positioned at the heart of John Piper – A British Visionary, an exhibition at Thompson’s Gallery in Aldeburgh, Suffolk the picture is a characteristic composition with an exotic provenance.
The pair of leaf-covered faces it depicts are loosely based on the green men that appear in architectural ornament, particularly English church carvings. Piper, whose role as an official war artist in the Second World War included portraying bomb-damaged churches, incorporated heads into a variety of works throughout his career.
Off the market since the 1950s, it now comes for sale from a private collection in Rio de Janeiro and the gallery believes it was purchased originally by Assis Chateaubriand (1892-1968), the Brazilian media mogul and diplomat.
Chateaubriand was behind a campaign in the 1940s to launch an international-standard art collection in Brazil, opening the São Paulo Museum of Art in 1947. Ten years later, he was appointed Brazilian ambassador to the UK, a position which he held until 1961. During that time, it is thought, the collector acquired Foliate Heads for himself.
It is now offered for £35,000 in the exhibition where it appears alongside paintings such as Northants Church, Maxey and Trellyfant, c.1968 as well as familiar prints such as Anglesey Beach and Castlemartin.
The exhibition runs from September 1-23, and follows a similar show staged by the gallery last year as well as Tate Liverpool’s large solo show of Piper’s work which ended in March.