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Constantin Brancusi, Prometheus, 1912

About this work

Brancusi made a sequence of works dealing with recumbent, isolated heads. The majority of these revolve around the apparently contrasting subjects of sleep and torment, two themes which the sculptor often attempted to balance in his work.

Prometheus, in Greek mythology one of the Titans and god of fire, tricked Zeus, the chief god, into accepting the bones and fat of sacrifice instead of the meat. When Zeus hid fire from man to punish him, Prometheus stole it and returned it to Earth once again. As punishment, Zeus had him chained to a rock and sent an eagle to eat his liver, which constantly replenished itself. In Brancusi’s interpretation of Prometheus’ tragic fate, the head – apparently a portrait of an actual boy – is inclined in a gesture that suggests both pain and eternal rest.

Where can I see it?

This work has just gone on show at the Whitworth Gallery for the exhibition In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy, curated by Turner Prize winning artist Elizabeth Price. In the exhibition Price explores the psychological and formal power of the horizontal, through images of the reclining or recumbent body.

The show includes work by over seventy artists including Brancusi, Andy Warhol and Anthea Hamilton. The sculptures, drawings, photographs, film and videos are arranged in four loosely threaded sections: Sleeping, Working, Mourning and Dancing. The installation is designed to create an immersive experience for the viewer, in which works are connected associatively. Prometheus is on display in the Sleep section alongside images that variously manifest sleep as rest, luxury, pleasure, and as a visible marker of poverty, itinerancy and flight.