Orphée et les nymphes

Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967)
Plaster relief
186 x 246 x 40 cm

We had as sole starting point a black and white photography dating from the 1930s picturing Ossip Zadkine proudly posing in his overalls and with his pipe in front of a monumental and elegant bas-relief, which keenly piqued our curiosity. Where would that work now be? Was it hidden? Was it covered? Destructed? Scattered in pieces? What were its original dimensions? When was the work precisely realised? And for whom?

All our interrogations would eventually get an answer through the Zadkine Research Center’s website. In September 2009, the daughter and heiress of the last landlord of the residency where the bas-relief was ultimately located, contacts us to get more information on this work that was now part of the household’s furniture. She also presents us with a preparatory sketch to enrich our archives.

We now know that Orphée et les Nymphes had been commissioned to Zadkine by his friend, tenor and director of the Brussels' Opéra, Joseph Rogachewski (Mirgorod, 1891-1985, Brussels). The delicate white bas-relief was to adorn a dedicated space – between two columns – that was envisioned during the elaboration and construction of his apartment, Avenue de l’Orée, Brussels, by the architect Stanislas Jasinski in 1936. But the path of men and artworks rarely remain immobile. In 1953, Rogachewski moves out just in the outskirts of the Belgian capital and decides to take Orphée et les Nymphes with him to place it on top of his new home’s fireplace. It is precisely where we have found it, in 2009, one year after the death of the ultimate landlord.

It was decided to decouple the work out of its wall again. This extremely sensitive operation has been minutely realized and has been handed over to our skilful restorer.

In 2015, Tjerk Wiegersma walked pass the avenue de l’Orée, where the apartment which originally Orphée et les Nymphes was made for. As luck would have it, he meets the exact apartment’s new landlords at the feet of the building and converse about this work by Zadkine. They didn’t know what work it was nor what had become of it. This afternoon encounter resulted very cheerful and positive. There is the occasional serendipity or somewhat happy coincidences.