Robert Mapplethorpe, Terrae Motus, 1983
Terrae Motus, 1983. Pentaptych comprising five gelatin silver prints. (i) and (v) 48.5 × 38.5 cm (19 1/8 × 15 1/8 in); (ii), (iii) and (iv) 38.5 × 38.5 cm (15 1/8 × 15 1/8 in) Each signed, dated in ink by the photographer, titled, dated, numbered 2/10 in ink in an unidentified hand and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp on the reverse of the flush-mount.
PROVENANCE Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples
EXHIBITED Naples, Fondazione Amelio, Terrae Motus, 6 July–31 December 1984 Lausanne, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Fondation Edelman, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1991 Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia, Lugano, Museo de Arte, Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, 26 May 200
LITERATURE G. C. Argan et al., Terrae Motus, exh. cat., Naples, Fondazione Amelia, 1984 C. Mihetti, C.A. Riley, Mapplethorpe, exh. cat., Lausanne, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Fondation Edelman, 1991 Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, exh. cat., Florence, Galleri
Titles include: Dennis with thorns; Jack with Crown; Skull and Crossbones; Jill Chapman; Dennis with flowers Robert Mapplethorpe was among the artists commissioned for Lucio Amelio’s Terrae Motus project, which responded to the devastating aftermath of an earthquake in Naples on 23 November 1980. Robert’s emotional reaction to this natural disaster is conveyed in these five panels. Here, two black male nudes stand in for Renaissance angels. They draw the viewer’s eye inward, toward an unconventional image of a black Christ and a Mary Magdalene, who together frame a detail of a carved skull and knife from the façade of a church in Naples.While each panel can stand alone as an artwork, those donated to support the Terrae Motus project were intended to be displayed together. It is indeed remarkable that the five panels have remained together as one work for nearly thirty years and are presented only now for sale.“Though Mapplethorpe transcended his subjects, he also focused our attention on them. He played on the edge of sacrilege, forcing us to ask if a religious figure can be depicted as a black eroticized male. In its daring depiction of Christ, and even in its presentation, the Terrae Motus piece recalls The Seven Words, 1898, by F. Holland Day. But here, and in all his works, Mapplethorpe used a highly personal visual language, utterly different from that of earlier artists.”(J. Nelson, ‘Mapplethorpe’s search for Intense, Ordered Beauty’, Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, 2009, p. 52)