The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is closed until further notice
According to Constantin Brancusi’s own testimony, his preoccupation with the image of the bird as a plastic form began as early as 1910. With the theme of the Maiastra in the early teens he initiated a series of about thirty sculptures of birds. Although the word ''maïastra'' means master or chief in Brancusi’s native Romanian, the title refers to a magically beneficent, dazzlingly plumed bird in Romanian folklore. Brancusi’s mystical inclinations and his deeply rooted interest in peasant superstition make the motif an apt one. The golden plumage of the Maiastra is expressed in the reflective surface of the bronze; the bird’s restorative song seems to issue from within the monumental puffed chest, through the arched neck, out of the open beak. The elevation of the bird on a saw-tooth base lends it the illusion of perching. The subtle tapering of form, the relationship of curved to hard-edge surfaces, and the changes of axis tune the sculpture so finely that the slightest alteration from version to version reflects a crucial decision in Brancusi’s development of the theme.