Head of a Woman (Blanche Charlet)

This terracotta sculpture represents the famous Belgian gallery owner Blanche Charlet. This work by Oscar Jespers – one of the major Belgian sculptors of the twentieth century – is representative of the artist’s Art Deco period and an excellent addition the Museum of Ixelles’ collection. Thanks to the acquisition by the Isabelle and Philippe Dewez Fund, it can be exhibited to a wider audience as soon as the museum reopens.

For Blanche Charlet

This splendid Head of a woman by the Belgian sculptor Oscar Jespers (1887-1970) is a portrait of the famous gallery owner Blanche Charlet (1898-1985), a key figure on the Brussels arts scene between the two world wars. Initially sculpted in marble, the artist subsequently made this terracotta model for Blanche Charlet herself.

Oscar Jespers’ Art Deco period

An innovative designer and sculptor, Oscar Jespers loved working with materials such as wood, marble and terracotta. He was interested in bas-relief, where surface work takes precedence, and in sculpture, which allowed him to bring out volumes, form, gesture and movement by condensing the material. From 1921 onwards, and for the next decade, Jespers sculpted a number of heads in white stone and Belgian granite that formed an autonomous series (Perle fine [Fine Pearl] 1925, Boxeur [Boxer] 1926, Tête de femme [Head of a Woman] 1929, etc.). For this series, the sculptor stated that the raw block of stone should remain as visible as possible despite the artist's work. The influence of Art Deco in his oeuvre is expressed in a gesture or a shape. This is the case with this terracotta, where the head is set perpendicular to the shoulder.

A famous gallery owner

Blanche Charlet ran her own art gallery near the Porte de Namur in Brussels. In 1926, she merged its activities with those of the Le Centaure gallery. She raised the funds needed to move to larger premises on Avenue Louise. The Depression put an end to the gallery's activities in 1930. During the Second World War, Charlet joined the Resistance. Imprisoned by the occupying forces, she managed to escape to England, where she was made a member of the prestigious Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the nation and settled in London. There she consolidated and developed her art collection, which included Oscar Jespers’ terracotta bust of her.

Accessible to a wide audience

As a piece representative of Oscar Jespers’ Art Deco style, this sculpture is a valuable addition to the Museum of Ixelles collection, which presents a rich panorama of Belgian art from the 19th century to the present day. Thanks to the Isabelle et Philippe Dewez Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, it will be presented to the Museum of Ixelles when it reopens after extension and renovation work.

Isabelle and Philippe Dewez Fund

The aim of the Isabelle and Philippe Dewez Fund is to make works of art more accessible and to pass them on to future generations by making them available to Belgian museums.

Material / technique: 
41,5 x 19 x 13,5 cm
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Isabelle and Philippe Dewez Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Museum van Elsene, Brussel