"Die Liegende" (Reclining Figure)

The "Reclining Figure" was photographed by Ernst Schwitters in London during the war; the optics of his Leica were clear (50mm lens); four good photographs were available.




Photographs of the reconstruction

Ernst Schwitters gave a precise description of the kitchen where he photographed this sculpture;
but there was one detail he could no longer remember exactly:
either the "Reclining Figure" was positioned exactly in the same place as the "Bird Ship", or, more likely, it stood on a "shelter" (a kind of iron table about 90 cm high that stood in the kitchen of London homes to dive under if there was an air raid).

An optical analysis of the photographs showed conclusively that:

the sculpture was 50 cm high;
to take the photographs, E.S. walked around the "Reclining Figure" and photographed freehand, each time from a deeper perspective;
the fourth photo was taken from a crouching position.

Thus the preconditions for a precise reconstruction were given.
The rest was a matter of applied geometry and its translation into three dimensions...

As in the case of the "Bird Ship",  the points defined on paper were translated into spatial terms using a kind of "cage", an iron frame made of slats and rods which enabled an absolutely precise determination of each point on the sculpture according to its spatial co-ordinates (x,y,z).

The underside of the "Reclining Figure" is perfectly balanced; the sculpture rests on only two points on the table and partly "overhangs" the sides in equilibrium:
No doubt Kurt Schwitters was arrested by the "trumpet" shape in passing, and seeing it slip half over the edge, thought "why shouldn't it stay that way?...".

If the sculpture is pressed down on the right-hand side and then let go, it starts to rock to and fro for quite a while.
So we changed its name. The "Liegende" (reclining figure) became the "Wiegende" (rocking figure).

Dimensions of the reconstruction: 0.90m x 0.30m x 0.45m

How did the sculpture get lost?

Kurt Schwitters left the "Reclining Figure" in the attic of the house where he had been living when he moved from London (he had no room for it in his luggage).
When he returned to collect it after the war, he found the landlord had thrown it out:
"... he couldn't store everybody's junk forever ..."

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