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No 35 Madame Sophie Sesostoris (a pre-raphaelite satire)



Robert Klippel

Australia, United States of America

19 Jun 1920 – 19 Jun 2001

Artist profile

James Gleeson


21 Nov 1915 – 20 Oct 2008

Artist profile

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Madame Sophie Sosostris (a Pre-Raphaelite satire)
    Opus 35
    Place where the work was made
    London England
    Media category
    Materials used
    beech and various woods, painted in oil
    49.5 x 10.0 x 10.0 cm
    Gift of James Gleeson and Robert Klippel 1970
    South Building, ground level, 20th-century galleries
    Accession number
    © Gleeson/O'Keefe Foundation © Robert Klippel Estate, courtesy Annette Larkin Fine Art

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    Artist information
    Robert Klippel

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


    Artist information
    James Gleeson

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    'Madame Sophie Sesostoris' was carved and assembled by Robert Klippel and painted by James Gleeson in the years 1947-48 when both artists were living and working in London. Her title derives from T.S. Eliot's poem 'The Waste Land' which features 'Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant'. The enigmatic predictions of her tarot cards are alluded to, for example, on the four miniature panels at the base of the sculpture. The figure carved by Klippel appeared to Gleeson just the way he imagined Madame Sosostris would look and also reminded him in a satirical way of the mysterious, melancholy women who gazed from the paintings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne Jones. Gleeson titled the figure, distorted her name and cast her as a 'pre-raphaelite satire'.

    Below the surface of her form we are shown the dazzling whirr of the organic machine. Both artists grappled with concepts of the internal and the external and their aim with this sculpture was 'to suggest the vital inner structure of an apparently simple form, to suggest that by some kind of x-ray magic one could look through the opaque skin and see all that lay within.'

    This collaborative sculpture was included in the 1948 exhibition held by the two artists in London. Other works shown in this exhibition, include 'Entities suspended from a detector' and 'Fever chart' by Robert Klippel, both in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 8 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 23 publications

Other works by Robert Klippel

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Other works by James Gleeson

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