(Bercem 1880? - ?)


Head of a Woman

Signed on base Jan Schoolmeesters


35 x 20 cm (13 ¾ x 7 7/8 inches)


Private collection, Belgium.


An elusive sculptor of the early 20th century, Jan Schoolmeesters created several serene female heads from marble. By contrasting the scored rock against the smooth face, the delicate features of the woman appear pristinely idealized and angelic. The dynamic composition of the head, diagonally tilted to one side, entices the viewer to continue moving the eye around the curvatures of the face. However, as one approaches the sculpture directly from the side, it becomes clear that the sculptor did not carve the full circumference of the subject’s head. Schoolmeesters has created a surreal effect in which the woman’s face emerges from a flat piece of stone. The marble recalls the story of Pygmalion, in which an artist falls in love with his own creation, a female figure made from ivory. Perhaps Schoolmeesters is cautioning us, lest we forget, that this beautiful, pensive woman should only be admired, not desired.   

While Schoolmeester’s career has been insufficiently documented, we do know that he studied at the Academy of Antwerp between 1904 and 1913 under the training of Belgian sculptors Jan Frans Deckers (1835-1916), Josue Dupon (1864-1935), and Émile Louis Jespers (1962-19218). He later enrolled at the Academy of Brussels, ultimately taking up permanent residency in the city. After World War I he held positions in the atelier of Victor Rousseau (1865-1954) and thereafter with Isidore De Rudder (1855-1943).