A Token of Triumph Cut Down to Size: Jacob Epstein’s Rock Drill as Fetish Object

  • Bernard Vere
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


At the 1915 London Group exhibition, Jacob Epstein exhibited his sculpture Rock Drill for the first and only time. The work consisted of a plaster of paris figure mounted on a real rock drill, the phallic connotations of which were noted both then and in the work’s subsequent reception. The following year, Epstein returned with Torso in Metal from the ‘Rock Drill’, a reduced version of Rock Drill that no longer incorporated the drill and featured only the upper part of the figure. Contesting Epstein’s account of the genesis of the two statues, as well as later interpretations that situate the Torso as a response to the First World War, this essay proposes an alternative reading using Sigmund Freud’s ideas on fetishism.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Vere
    • 1
  1. 1.Sotheby’s Institute of ArtLondonUK

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