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    Sale 12244

    The Italian Sale

    6 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 134

    Fausto Melotti (1901-1986)

    Scultura n. 16

    Price Realised  


    Fausto Melotti (1901-1986)
    Scultura n. 16
    35 3/8 x 35 3/8in. (90 x 90cm.)
    Conceived in 1935 and executed in 1968, this work is from an edition of three plus one artist's proof

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    ‘Art is an angelic, geometric feeling. It addresses the intellect, not the senses.’ (Fausto Melotti, quoted in Fausto Melotti: Sculptures and Works on Paper from 1955 1983, exh. cat. Waddington Galleries, London, 2006, p. 37)

    Playing with the dichotomy of shadow and light, of concavity and relief, Scultura n. 16 is one of a small group of delicate, abstract white sculptures created by Fausto Melotti for his first solo exhibition, held in 1935 at the Galleria del Milione in Milan. The Galleria del Milione had been founded by the Ghiringhelli brothers in 1930, and quickly became a lively hub for cultural development and the promotion of non-figurative art in Italy. Here, in the library annexed to the gallery, artists could consult European journals such as Cahiers d’Art, Cercle et Carré and Abstraction-Création, whilst exhibitions showcasing the works of such pioneering artists as Wassily Kandinsky opened their eyes to contemporary experiments in abstraction. Melotti joined the group of artists that gravitated around the gallery in 1934, driven perhaps in part by the involvement of his cousin, the artistic theoretician and philosopher Carlo Belli. Finding creative inspiration in this milieu, Melotti began to explore similar concepts of an abstract, objective art, one which reflected the laws of geometry and mathematics, in a pure, minimalist aesthetic.

    In many ways, Scultura n. 16 represents the culmination of these experiments. Driven by an inherent sense of order, harmony and precision, traits that Melotti found in Greek architecture, mathematics and music, it is a work defined by its simplicity and purity. Melotti’s passion for music was a particularly important influence for the sculptures he created during the 1930s, as he sought to translate the structures, melodies and rules of musical composition into a visual medium. Looking back on these works almost forty years later, Melotti explicitly pointed to their musical structure, stating: ‘There is a musical space structured in the building of the harmony, and a musical tempo in the scansion of the counterpoint: imitation, canon, variation, even the simple unfolding of the melody. Seeking to connect myself to these principles, in the abstract works of ’34-’35 I also brought into play the renunciation of the turbid pleasures of matter’ (Melotti, quoted in J. de Sanna, Fausto Melotti: Anti-Sculpture, exh. cat. New York, 1994, p. 11). These concepts manifest themselves in the present work, as Melotti builds the sculpture on a careful balance of counterpoint and harmony, exploring the relationships between different iterations of the concave and the convex mark, between positive and negative space, in an elegant dialogue of forms.

    The central focus of Scultura n. 16 is a pair of gently sloping ellipses, one raised off the plane and the other carved into the plaster, their edges over-lapping as in a Venn diagram. The different means of their creation grant both ellipses an individual character which simultaneously highlights and contrasts against the opposing ovoid’s construction. The left ellipse, for example, is made up of a series of small, raised circles arranged in a precise pattern, the gaps between each circle carefully and evenly measured. As these circles project off the surface of the composition, they cast elongated shadows on to the pure white plaster, introducing sharply contrasting passages of light and shade to the work. The other ovoid is executed in a pair of unbroken, precisely drawn lines, with the interior of the ellipse divided into four sections by two axes running on perpendicular lines. The sharp geometry of these forms are reinforced by the monochrome palette of Melotti’s work, while the intersection of the two ellipses is a prime example of Melotti’s interest in applying geometric principles to the dynamics of the relationships between these forms too.

    This interplay between the incised and the projected form is continued in the double row of circles which traverse the lower register of the sculpture. The size and exact shapes of these hollows directly echo those which appear in the ellipse that hovers above. But, rather than appearing in three-dimensional relief, these circles punctuate the surface of the sculpture, creating a shallow dip which directly contrasts with the projecting circles above. By juxtaposing these identical geometrical shapes in both raised and incised lines alongside one another, Melotti introduces a quiet, dynamic tension to the sculpture, as these elements, which are at once interdependent and independent entities, echo one another in rhythm and contour.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Galleria Ippolito Simonis, Turin.
    Galleria Notizie, Turin.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    AA.VV., Albers Arman Arp Balla Bill Christo Fabro Fontana Gris Herbin Kandinsky Klein Léger Manzoni Melotti Mirò Nigro Paolini Picabia Rotella Scarpitta Soto Tanguy Tapies Tinguely Twombly Vasarely, exh. cat. Turin, Galleria Notizie, p. 103 (another from the edition illustrated).
    A. M. Hammacher, Melotti, Milan 1975, pl. 5.
    AA.VV., Fausto Melotti. L’acrobata invisibile, Milan 1987, p. 14.
    L. Caramel,’ Arte astratta in Italia negli anni Trenta’, in Italia Anni Trenta, Milan 1989 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 60).
    L. Vinca Masini, L’arte del Novecento. Dall’Espressionismo al Multimediale, Vol. 9, Florence and Rome 1989, p. 249 (another from the edition illustrated, no. 1183).
    G. Celant, Melotti. Catalogo generale. Sculpture 1929-1972, Milan 1996, Tomo I, no. 1935 11 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 30).
    R. Bossaglia, C. Gian Ferrari, E. Pontiggia, Novecento. Catalogo dell’Arte Italiana dal Futurismo a Corrente, Milan 1996 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 144).
    L. Lazotti, Le sculture di Melotti nell’astrattismo italiano, Florence 1996, p. 463 (another from the edition illustrated).
    AA. VV., Scultura lingua morta. Dead Language Sculpture, exh. cat., Leeds, Henry Moore Institute, 2003, p. 78 (another from the edition illustrated); this exhibition then travelled to Rovereto, Mart Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto.
    AA. VV, La grande storia dell’arte, Florence and Milan 2005, pl. 45 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 229).
    M. E. Versari, Kandinsky et l’art abstrait, Florence and Paris, 2008.
    A. Pireddu, In abstracto. Sull’architettura di Giuseppe Terragni, Florence 2013, p. 51 (another from the edition illustrated).


    Turin, Galleria Notizie, Melotti: profezia della scultura, 1968.
    Milan, Galleria dell’Ariete, Melotti, 1969 (another from the edition illustrated).
    Parma, Università di Parma, Sala delle Scuderie in Pilotta, Fausto Melotti, 1976, no. 46 (another from the edition illustrated).
    Trento, Castello del Buonconsiglio, Fausto Melotti. Opere 1935-1977, 1977, no. 3, pl. 3 (another from the edition illustrated).
    Prato, Palazzo Novellucci, Anni creativi al “Milione” 1932-1939, 1980, no. 4, p. 77 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 77).
    Milan, Palazzo Reale, Melotti, 1979
    Prato, Palazzo Novellucci, Anni creativi al “Milione” 1932-1939, 1980.
    Milan, Palazzo Reale, Galleria del Sagrato ex Arengario, Gli Anni Trenta: Arte e Cultura in Italia, 1982, no. 1 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 23).
    Milan, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Arte Contemporanea per un museo - 10 anni di acquisizioni delle Civiche Raccolte d’Arte di Milano, 1989 (another from the edition illustrated).
    Madrid, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Memoria del futuro. Arte italiana desde las primeras vanguardias a la posguerra, 1990-1991 (another from the edition illustrated).
    Aosta, Museo Archeologico di Aosta, La valle della scultura. Da Rodin a Calder, i maestri del nostro secolo, 1996.
    Duisburg, Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Fausto Melotti, 2000 (another from the edition illustrated).
    Milan, Spazio Oberdan, Milano anni Trenta. L’arte e la città, 2004-2005.