Amedeo Modigliani 'Caryatid Seated on Plinth with Lighted Candles' c.1911

An Essay by Richard Nathanson

Modigliani's admiration for the serene beauty and quiet strength of the Buddha figures seated in meditation is evident in this gently erotic, otherworldly drawing.

Buddha Seated in Meditation, Thailand 18th century

The sculptor Jacob Epstein remembers seeing Modigliani's studio filled with nine or ten long heads and one figure. 'At night', Epstein recalled, 'he would place candles on the top of each one and the effect was that of a primitive temple.' According to his dealer, Paul Guillaume, Modigliani dreamt of creating a temple to mankind.

The caryatid was a supporting feature in classical Greek architecture as is shown by the caryatid figure in the Parthenon [see below]. Thinking perhaps of the Greek god 'Atlas' condemned to support the sky on his back, Modigliani may have created his own symbolic caryatid to save the world with its beauty - believing, as did Dostoyevsky, that only 'Beauty' could save the world.


Parmigianino's 'Madonna with the Long Neck', with its tender, downward gaze, is also gently present in this drawing.