The Studio of Fredda Brilliant

16th May 2019

On the 150th anniversary of his birth, the maquette of the famous statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Tavistock Square is being sold at auction by the family of the sculptress who created it. Deliberately created with a hollowed out base where visitors could leave floral tributes, the statue has become almost a place of pilgrimage for Indian visitors to London, who regularly leave flowers and candles in gratitude for a safe journey.

The studio of the artist who created the statue (Polish-born Fredda Brilliant) is now being sold 20 years after her death, and includes not only the metre high maquette for the Tavistock Square installation, but a number of other maquettes and finished bronzes of other leading Indian politicians. Brilliant lived in India with her husband, the writer Herbert Marshall, throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, during which time she sculpted a number of people involved in the country’s move from colonial rule to independence. Among the portraits included in her studio collection are those of Pandit Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Indira Gandhi. Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, sat for her many times and described her passionate approach to her art – “When she was at work she looked like a mad woman…. tears would flow as easily as laughter or anger”.

Other famous subjects by Brilliant included John F. Kennedy, Anton Chekhov, Duncan Grant and Terry Thomas, but a commission to sculpt Pablo Picasso was aborted when he pinched her bottom.

A long-time champion of female rights, Brilliant was appalled by the comparative lack of women depicted in sculptural art and enjoyed sculpting successful women, especially those seeking to change society such as Indira Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Helena Florence Normanton (the first female QC in England) and Christina Noble (the children’s rights campaigner).

The contents of her studio are being sold by her niece, to whom they were left after Brilliant’s death in 1999. The maquette of Gandhi featured on the Antiques Roadshow in 2013, when Philip Mould valued it at £20,000, despite the current auction record for one of her works standing at just £3,000. It features in the Modern British and 20th Century Art auction at Woolley and Wallis Salisbury Salerooms on 5th June with an estimate of £800-1,200.

To view the full collection please click here.

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