Fausto Melotti (1901-1989)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more Property of an Important Private European Collector
Fausto Melotti (1901-1989)

Tema e variazioni IV

Fausto Melotti (1901-1989)
Tema e variazioni IV
incised with the artists signature and number Melotti 2/3 (on the base)
gold on inox base
20 1/8 x 39 3/8 x 5½in. (51 x 100 x 14cm.)
Executed in 1970, this work is number two from an edition of three plus one artists proof
F. Grosso Collection, Turin.
Anon. sale, Sothebys Milan, 31 May 1990, lot 209.
Galleria Seno, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 2004.
A. M. Hammacher, Melotti, Milan 1975, no. 154 (another from the edition illustrated, unpaged).
Fausto Melotti Anti-Sculpture, exh. cat., New York, Paolo Baldacci Gallery, 1994, no. 21 (another from the edition illustrated, unpaged). G. Celant, Melotti. Catalogo generale, Tomo I, Sculture 1929-1972 e Bassorilievi, Milan 1994, no. 1970 46 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 272).
Parma, Università di Parma, Sala delle Scuderie in Pilotta, Fausto Melotti, 1976, no. 189 (another from the edition exhibited).
Bollate, Villa Arconati, Fausto Melotti. Sequenze d'amore, 1991, no. 11 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated, p. 15).
Pescara, Museo Vittoria Colonna, Forme e suoni dallo spazio-tempo estremo: Melotti, Fontana, Pierelli, Pistoletto, Eliasson, Patella, Palmieri, Piscitelli, 2004 (another from the edition exhibited).
Brussels, Gladstone Gallery, Fausto Melotti, 2008-2009 (another from the edition exhibited).
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.

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Anne Elisabeth Spittler
Anne Elisabeth Spittler

Lot Essay

Finely assembled from gold threads and leaves, Tema e variazioni IV is a delicate example of Fausto Melotti's second creative phase. Although abstract in its elements, the work resonates across the space like a series of mysterious ideograms, transforming sculpture into a three-dimensional calligraphic exercise of poetry and signs. Bearing the hallmarks of Melotti's particular conception of art as an intellectual exercise of order and harmony, Tema e variazioni IV is a work that introduces an intriguing sense of musical harmony into the realm of sculpture.
Conceived in 1970, Tema e variazioni IV is an important expression of Melotti's slowly matured outlook on sculpture. After a period of artistic silence caused by the trauma of the Second World War, Melotti faithfully returned to sculpture in the 1960s and 1970s, discovering a new language made of delicate threads and thin sheets of brass, iron and gold. This second artistic phase, to which Tema e variazioni IV belongs, draws from both Melotti's earlier abstract and narrative languages: it maintains the rigour and conceptual power of the artist's 1930s abstract works, while conveying the poetry and whimsical world of the terracotta 'teatrini', which he created in the aftermath of the war.
Although three-dimensional, and never expanding to the point of becoming an installation, works such as Tema e variazioni IV were often referred to by Melotti as 'anti-sculpture'. From a physical point of view, Melotti's late works seem to defy the mass and presence of classical sculpture. Light-weight, finely-crafted and almost fragile in their intricate construction, works such as Tema e variazioni IV bring a new dimension to sculpture, incorporating space and air into its essence. This shift might derive from Melotti's intriguing approach to his late sculptures: 'I use metal because it brings me closer to drawing', he explained, 'with metal I can draw in space' (F. Melotti in 1974, quoted in B. Mantura, 'Per Fausto Melotti', pp. 7-11, in Melotti, exh. cat., Rome, 1983, p. 10). While existing in space, Tema e variazioni IV expresses a sense of writing, of lines and shapes being traced on a surface, adding a temporal dimension to the work, while challenging the norms of sculpture in the round.

In its structure, Tema e variazioni IV expresses the conceptual power of Melotti's late works. Melotti, who in his youth had studied music and mathematics, came to regard the arts as 'exact' disciplines, less subordinated to instinct and creativity, than to rationality and laws. 'Art is the angelic, geometric feeling', Melotti declared, 'It addresses the intellect, not the senses' (F. Melotti, quoted in Fausto Melotti: L'acrobata invisibile, exh. cat., Milan, 1987, p. 88). Music played a central role: 'there is a musical space structured in the building of harmony', Melotti affirmed (F. Melotti, quoted in M. Calvesi, Fausto Melotti, Parma, 1976, p. 19). With its visual resonances and yet unique elements, Tema e variazioni IV appears as a chorus of voices, tuned into a symphony of shimmers and lines across space. Arranged on different vertical plans, the work applies the musical concept of counterpoint - the technique of playing different melodies with each other- to the world of sculpture. Tema e variazioni IV illustrates Melotti's subtle contribution to modern sculpture, as he added the classical components of rhythm, order and harmony to the minimalist, conceptual realm of sculpture born in the 1960s.

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