Preparatory object for the sculpture Joan Miró's "Personnage" (c.1970) (image courtesy Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca Photographic Archive)

Most people would pass them by without even noticing, but for Joan Miró, the small almond and pebble now in the archive of the Fundació Miró Mallorca were art in the making. “Miró found inspiration in anything, often where least expected,” writes his grandson Joan Punyet Miró in the 2015 book The Miró Eye. For decades, the artist roamed nearby roads, fields, beaches, and markets in search of things he’d later translate into quirky collages and large-scale sculptures. But it wasn’t just a matter of being attentive to his surroundings. As Miró’s friend and fellow artist Joan Prats once said, “If I pick up a stone, it’s a stone; if Miró picks one up, it’s a Miró.”

Miró was born in 1893 to a family of craftspeople. The artist lived for years between France and Cataluña, but eager to escape the hustle and bustle of Barcelona, and its threat of Francoist surveillance, Miró settled just outside of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in 1956. There, the artist filled his studio with hundreds of found objects, including shells, fossils, toys, gourds, bones, and folkloric crafts, like Mallorcan siurells — ceramic whistles in the shape of humans and animals — which inspired the creation of many of Miró’s artworks.

The pock-marked almond and smooth, black pebble in question were likely found in the late 1960s during one of Miró’s daily walks around his Mallorca home and studio. In 1970, he made a plaster cast of the two objects which he later enlarged and altered in the bronze sculpture “Personage” (1970). In this piece, Miró transforms the humble found almond and pebble into a six-foot-tall anthropomorphic monument. 

In this and other works, “something ephemeral and disposable becomes noble and permanent,” Fundació Miró Mallorca curator Patricia Juncosa Vecchierini wrote in an email to Hyperallergic. “With an intimate and somewhat accidental gesture, a simple found object becomes a work of art, and moreover, a monument.” Miró often sculpted from throwaway materials like tin cans, egg cartons, and even bread, challenging ideas of beauty and value. He had an uncanny ability to see art in the unlikeliest everyday objects, but as the almond and pebble show, Miró was also drawn to easily overlooked elements of nature. As the artist once said, “The smallest thing in nature is an entire world.”

Lauren Moya Ford is a writer and artist. Her writing has appeared in Apollo, Artsy, Atlas Obscura, Flash Art, Frieze, Glasstire, Mousse Magazine, and other publications.