At the time of its purchase by the Australian National Gallery it was assumed that this plaster head was closely related to the Head of a girl listed in the first edition of the catalogue raisonné of Moore's work as no. 14b and in the revised edition of 1957 as no. 56. In the catalogue the medium of the sculpture is given as stone, but the Head of a girl in the Gallery is plaster, although it has been worked in a dry state with chisels and files and patinated (varnished) so that it resembles stone. Furthermore, the photograph of the Head of a girl in the first edition of the catalogue (the same photograph was used again in the revised edition of 1957) shows a strange foot-like torso, whereas the Gallery's sculpture is cut off at the neck and mounted on an oval alabaster base. But in size (allowing for the difference in torso) and in physiognomy, the heads appear to be identical.
In the revised edition of the catalogue Head of a girl is listed as being in the collection of Lucy Carrington Wertheim, London. Since this is also the provenance of the Gallery's sculpture, it would appear that they are the same work. The Gallery's Head of a girl shows evidence of extensive damage sustained some time ago. Perhaps on this occasion the original foot-like torso was broken off and replaced by the alabaster oval base - probably by Moore himself.
In 1928 Moore acquired the book L'Art Précolumbien by Adolph Basler and Ernest Brummer, first published in Paris in 1928. Moore's purchase of this book in the year of its publication (his copy of the book is inscribed on the fly-leaf, 'Henry Moore 1928') reflects his interest in early Mexican art, already established through frequent visits to the pre-Columbian collection in the British Museum. The heads and masks which Moore produced in 1928-29, including the plaster Head of a girl, exhibit strong parallels with the simplified, mask-like features to be found in many of the illustrations in L'Art Précolombien.
The Gallery also owns a later, monumental, bronze by Henry Moore, Hill arches 1973.
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.176.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010