Amsel ou Sagesse

Francis Picabia

Paris, France, 1879 - 1953

The Transparences (Transparencies) are among Francis Picabia’s most interesting works. The first of the creations are dated 1927-1928, and are characterised by the overlaying of multiple references – ancient sculpture, Renaissance painting, Catalan art – through which a peculiar dialogue with artistic tradition is established. Amsel ou Sagesse is an outstanding example of this type of representation. The title refers to the blackbird, a creature loaded with symbolism in the Middle Ages (“Amsel” being German for “blackbird”). Because of its enchanting song, the small bird symbolises temptation and in olden days its shining black plumage was associated with the devil, as seen, for example, in numerous representations of Saint Benedict. Amsel ou Sagesse is exceptional principally for its magnetism and its power, with the large face that dominates the composition vying for attention with the other powerful motifs that are overlaid on top of it. So the entire whole functions as a visual cliché, reminding the viewer of the blatant imagery of Romanesque effigies or film posters.

Paloma Esteban Leal