The Miracle (Seal [I])


Constantin Brancusi revisited subjects and forms frequently throughout his career, executing variations of earlier sculptures with subtly reimagined contours and in new mediums and scales. Both The Miracle (Seal [I]) (Le miracle, ca. 1930–32) and Flying Turtle (Tortue volante, 1940–45) were the first of their kind and relatively late additions to the artist’s repertoire of motifs; in fact, Flying Turtle was the last sculpture Brancusi executed that did not have a direct formal precedent. The two works do, however, show a continuity with many of the sculptor’s overarching concerns.

Animals were a common subject for Brancusi, though excepting humans, he focused exclusively on those that fly or swim. The shapes of such animals were suited to the compact volumes that the sculptor favored, as well as his desire to depict speed and movement. In The Miracle (Seal [I]) and Flying Turtle, the simplified forms suggest not only the creatures’ namesakes but also their fluid means of locomotion. By balancing both sculptures delicately on their respective limestone bases and giving each a pronounced upward thrust, Brancusi captured the seeming weightlessness of bodies suspended in water or air. The effect is striking given the significant mass of these two marble works.

For Brancusi, animals also held symbolic weight and transcendent possibilities. In the case of The Miracle (Seal [I]), the breaching form may allude to emotional regeneration, as inspired by the sight of an acquaintance of the artist experiencing catharsis while swimming. Such transformational potential is taken a step further in Flying Turtle. By imaginatively endowing the subject with flight, Brancusi created an emblem of the lowliest creature’s ability to transcend its station.
b. 1876, Hobitza, Romania; d. 1957, Paris
Brancusi, Constantin
Date Created
cast c.1930–32
64 1/4" x 58 3/4" (163.2 x149.2 cm)
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Rights Holder
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Item sets
The Biomorphism