Brancusi's Symbol of Joyce

Constantin Brancusi, a Romanian-born artist in Paris, created several portraits of Joyce. They were commissioned by the American expatriates Harry and Caresse Crosby for their limited edition of excerpts from Finnegans Wake. Rather than use a likeness for the frontispiece, Caresse Crosby chose a spiral design by Brancusi, who called it “Symbol of James Joyce.” It was identified in the Crosbys' book, however, as “Portrait of the Author.” Reportedly, when Joyce’s father saw Brancusi’s image, he remarked,“Jim has changed more than I thought.” Brancusi later explained the cryptic image to the painter Jacques Hérold, noting,“Joyce is like that: he departs from one point, and you’ll never meet him again.”

James Joyce (1882–1941)
Tales Told of Shem and Shaun
“Symbol of James Joyce” by Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957)
Paris: Black Sun Press, 1929
The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Sean and Mary Kelly, 2018; PML 197815
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