Audio: Alberto Giacometti, Tête de Diego au col roulé
Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
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Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)

Tête de Diego au col roulé

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Tête de Diego au col roulé
painted bronze
height: 13 in. (33 cm.)
executed in 1951; unique
M. and Mme Aimé Maeght, Paris (acquired from the artist).
M. and Mme Adrien Maeght, Paris (by descent from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 11 November 1997, lot 163.
Jan Krugier, acquired at the above sale.
E. Scheidegger, ed., Alberto Giacometti: Schriften, Fotos, Zeichnungen, Zürich, 1958, p. 84 (plaster version illustrated).
B. Lamarche-Vadel, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1984, p. 150, no. 214 (illustrated in color; with incorrect medium).
Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, p. 440, no. 422 (illustrated).
M. Brüderlin and T. Stooss, ed., Alberto Giacometti: The Origin of Space, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, 2011, p. 188, fig. 6 (illustrated in color).
The Alberto Giacometti Database, no. 2772.
The Alberto and Annette Giacometti Association Database, no. S-2013-6.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Alberto Giacometti, July-September 1978, p. 190, no. 70.
Saint-Etienne, Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, Alberto Giacometti, June-September 1981, p. 14, no. 5 (illustrated).
Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art; Sendai, Miagi Museum of Art; Gifu, Museum of Fine Arts; Kurashiki, Ohara Museum of Art and Yokohama, Galerie Municipal, Alberto Giacometti, September 1983-March 1984, p. 41, no. 26 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie Adrien Maeght, Alberto Giacometti, June-July 1984 (illustrated in color).
Zürich, Galerie Scheidegger, Giacometti, May-June 1985.
Mexico City, Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo, A.C., Giacometti: Giovanni 1868-1933, Augusto 1877-1947, Alberto 1901-1966, Diego 1902-1985, April-June 1987, p. 79, no. 41 (illustrated).
Barcelona, Fondation Miró, Giacometti: Giovanni 1863-1933, Augusto 1877-1947, Alberto 1901-1966, Diego 1902-1985, September-November 1987, no. 50.
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Quatrième triénnale, June-July 1989, p. 74.
Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Grösse: klein. Schweizer Kunst zwischen Kleinplastik und Objekt von Alberto Giacometti bis heute, October-December 1989, p. 74 (illustrated).
Brussels, Espace 251 Nord, Le jardin de la Vierge, September-November 1993.
Amiens, Musée Picardie, Le musée et les modernes, February-April 1994.
Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Linie, Licht und Schatten: Meisterzeichnungen und Skulpturen der Sammlung Jan und Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, May-August 1999, p. 390, no. 187 (illustrated in color, p. 391).
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Miradas sin tiempo: Dibujos, Pinturas y Esculturas de la Colección Jan y Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, February-May 2000, p. 472, no. 219 (illustrated in color, p. 473).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Alberto Giacometti, October 2001-January 2002.
Vienna, Albertina Museum, Goya bis Picasso: Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, April-August 2005, p. 380, no. 166 (illustrated in color, p. 381).
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das ewige Auge: Von Rembrandt bis Picasso, Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, July-October 2007, p. 454, no. 219 (illustrated in color, p. 455).
Sale room notice
Please note that this work is registered in the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Association Database under the no. S-2013-6.

Lot Essay

Giacometti cast this bronze sculpture in 1951, based on a plaster he modeled a year or two previously (fig. 1). The subject is his brother Diego attired in a turtle-necked sweater, the collar of which he has rolled down about his neck. This sculpture is among the earliest of the great series of male heads and busts that the artist created during the 1950s, "which are as famous as they are beautiful," Yves Bonnefoy has declared. "These sculpted faces compel one to face them as if one were speaking to the person, meeting his eyes" (op. cit., p. 432). Tête de Diego au col roulé is a handsome sculpture of a strikingly good-looking man. The sculptor no doubt felt that his beloved brother's finely distinguished visage virtually called out to be rendered in three dimensions, and sought in this work to create a strongly personalized and characterful embodiment of his features, the effect of which he profoundly enhanced by having elected to uniquely paint this cast. The creamy flesh tone in Diego's face, contrasting with the thinner washes of tint in the his upper body, everywhere highlight the cuts, crevices and ridges of the sculptor's ruggedly energetic modeling, and contribute to an uncannily intimate, vital and riveting presence.

By 1950 Giacometti felt that he had exhausted the possibilities inherent in the attenuated, stick-like figures that he made in his visionary, weightless style during the late 1940s. He now sought to reclaim a more realistic and concrete sense of space, without sacrificing the acute degree of expressivity that he had worked so hard for nearly three decades to achieve. Just as he had done in 1935, when he gave up his surrealist and abstract manner, Giacometti once again committed himself to working from a model, this time his wife Annette or more often his brother Diego (fig. 2). The resumption of this practice in his studio heralded a sea-change in his art. "And this is the point that must be stressed," Bonnefoy has explained, "it is already surprising enough to find an artist at the height of his powers, who in the space of three or four years had sculpted some of the major archetypes of modern art and was immediately recognized as such, practically abandoning this type of creation in order to devote himself to the portraits of a few individuals... During this final period, of almost fifteen years, the heads studies were exclusively Diego, Annette, Annetta [the artist's mother], Caroline and a very few other persons, all close friends, which proves that Giacometti had indeed chosen the existence of individuals, the here and now as the chief object of his new and future study; and he instinctively realized that this object transcended all artistic signs and representations, since it was no less than life itself" (ibid., p. 369).

The intimate nature of those close relationships with his subjects did much to inspire the new kind of intensity that one discovers in Giacometti's sculptures of the early 1950s. Giacometti now wanted to model--to feel within his hands as he worked--not an imagined, visionary conception of the human visage and figure, but instead the physical reality, the very corporeity of another human being as he actually experienced his or her presence, as well as that no less palpably charged sense of space which this subject occupied directly in front of him. Giacometti's did not seek to describe, however, a realistic resemblance of any conventional kind. As Christian Klemm has pointed out, "For Giacometti it was the essential presence of the human being, as it appears to the artist, that he sought to grasp--the ceaseless dialogue between seeing and the seen, eye and hand, in which form continually grows and dissolves" (Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001, p. 222).

The present Tête de Diego became the general paradigm for the many busts and heads that followed (fig. 3), in which the elevated head, eyes staring ahead, surmounted a massive upper body, which also served as a base for the head. This sculpture also displays the initial appearance of an idea that Giacometti employed in a subset of these busts of Diego, in which the artist depicted his brother wearing various outer garments, the sweater seen here, or a coat, cloak, windbreaker, or jacket. The clear and purposeful rendering of clothing here is a new development in Giacometti's treatment of his male subjects. The great attenuated male figures of the late 1940's--Homme qui marche, Homme traversant une place, L'Homme au doigt and L'Homme qui chavire (fig. 4)--had been so utterly pared down in their external aspect that we presume these figures to be naked in both their physical presence and their spiritual persona as well, thus aptly suggesting their universalized existential condition.

The presence of the cloak or other articles of clothing do indeed imbue these busts of the 1950s with a stronger and more obvious sense of naturalism that is absent in either the earlier or the final works of Giacometti. Nevertheless, by means of depicting such familiar and observed everyday garments, the sculptor has animated these figures with an immediate factuality; these busts are far less removed from our personal sphere of experience than the celebrated elongated figures, sculptures that Giacometti more purposely imagined than observed as he conceived and executed them. The inclusion of such ordinary attire moreover typically contributes to the massively monumental character of these busts. They appear to possess an immovably heroic aspect, a singularly commanding and magisterial presence, which proclaim both the here and now, and a transcendentally timeless dimension as well.

Giacometti's use of clothing as a supporting foundation for these busts is akin to Henry Moore's interest in drapery, also during the early and mid-1950s, for his reclining figures. The British sculptor studied the function of drapery in the classical sculpture of antiquity, which he moreover associated with allusions to various landscape features, the natural forms of the rolling hills, fields and vales of his native Hertfordshire. Giacometti drew upon memories of a very different kind of landscape, centered on the Swiss town of Stampa, in the mountainous Bregaglia Valley near the Italian border, where he grew up and his mother still lived. He was a man of the Swiss Alps, a rocky, rugged and in most places a forbiddingly desolate and inhospitable environment. Yves Bonnefoy believed that Giacometti's male busts embody this sense of place:

"Is that small amount of matter up there on top of the huge body not like the peak of a mountain, which one can easily imagine to be of a different nature from the slopes leading up to it, separated as it is from its dusky foothills by the grace of light? It follows from this analogy that this mass of bronze, furrowed and scored with holes and chasms like the rocky walls of the Alps signifies matter as such, matter in its essential being. And so the bust became an idea almost as much as a presence: the idea of the triumph of being over nothingness" (op. cit., 1991, p. 437).

The presence of Diego permeates the production of Giacometti's great male busts throughout the early and mid-1950s. While most modern artists turned to a wife or lover for their chief inspiration, their woman-as-muse, Giacometti's artistic relationship with his primary sitter was decidedly masculine on both sides. Diego was an ever-present and absolute constant in his life: it was inevitable that he should become the sculptor's most frequent and important model. The sculptor's confrontation with his subject, in a creation whose image he continually built up and broke down as he held it in his hands, constituted in its most extreme circumstances an utterly heroic and inherently futile Sisyphean endeavor. Giacometti's efforts amounted to an all-stakes encounter with being and nothingness, a struggle that could only find its most profound and powerful expression in the depiction of another man. It was indeed fortunate that this man was his brother, someone who was as close as possible to being a virtual extension of artist himself. "They were born of the same mother," Bonnefoy observed, "and Diego, like himself, was 'not of this world' in the ordinary sense. In the presence of someone who is, as it were, his double, Giacometti more than ever is witness to the mystery of existence, like Hamlet thinking of Yorick, in front of a skull in the dust" (ibid., p. 432).

By obsessively concentrating on the particulars of a single individual, and probing them from sculpture to sculpture, Giacometti created in sum a timeless, universal man, who was no less compelling in his presence than the famous figures of the late 1940s, only in a different way: Giacometti had now brought into a closer and more immediate focus that abstract and existentialist anxiety he had recently expressed in his earlier work, which, because his subjects were completely anonymous, might appear too remote and parabolic. While the sculptor subsequently subjected Diego's features to varying degrees of distortion (fig. 5), the essential traits of his brother's identity are always present and usually detectable: the powerful gaze of wide-open eyes, the prominent, slightly upturned nose, full lips, the tall forehead surmounted by a crest of hair. "He chose Diego as his principal model partly because he was always there," Paul Elliott has written, "but more particularly because his features were so familiar and his personality didn't get in the way: 'When he poses for me I don't recognize him' [Giacometti said]. One might say that Diego was to Giacometti what the still-life was to Morandi or Mont-Saint-Victoire to Cézanne" (Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Scottish National Gallery of Art, Edinburgh, 1996, p. 23).

The strength and power inherent in the great male busts of the 1950s perhaps constituted Giacometti's self-prescribed antidote to the terrifying fragility of life and tragic tenuousness of the human condition he had so strongly projected in the figures of the late 1940s. The latter display the deeply affecting symptoms of a visionary romantic spirit; the busts, from a another point of view, tell a somewhat different story: a more serene classical sensibility appears to have taken root in the sculptor's studio discipline, in which--for the time being, at least--the promise of positivity and certitude drawn from intent observation has held in abeyance any disruptive inference of precipitous self-doubt, the latter being that typically Giacomettian state-of-mind to which the artist returned later in the decade. In this new manner, Giacometti delved into an essential and defining dimension of his intellectual and emotional makeup, and not for the first time. There had been in his work a clear pattern, a creative dynamic that had been operating for some time already, by which Giacometti vacillated between two fundamental approaches in his work--most broadly speaking, his struggle with existence as an abstractly intellectual phenomenon and his engagement with the world as a strongly perceived and studied reality.

The various sculptures of men that Giacometti executed during 1947-1950 stand full-length and are engaged in some sort of motion or activity. An intriguing transformation then ensued. When Giacometti's male subjects after 1950 took the form of heads or busts, without a lower body and mostly shorn of their limbs, they became immobile in their pose. By focusing on the head and an armless upper body, and excluding the rest of the figure, the sculptor has emphasized a conception of man now given to contemplation and thought, rather than to action. Giacometti believed that the most important sign of life is awareness, a faculty that is manifest in one's gaze. "If the gaze, that is life, is the main thing," he declared, "then the head becomes the main thing, without a doubt. The rest of the body is limited to functioning as antennae that make people's life possible--the life that is housed in the skull" (quoted in R. Hohl, ed., Giacometti: A Biography in Pictures, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1998, p. 146).

Giacometti's concentration on the head and gaze suggested the idea of a painted finish for a select few casts of these sculptures. He had long appreciated the fact, largely lost to view today, that heads and figures sculpted in antiquity and in Europe during the medieval period were typically painted to project a startling, lifelike effect. David Sylvester has noted that "Giacometti first colored some of his pieces while in Bourdelle's class, where he became impatient with monochrome sculpture. From the mid-1940s on, the plasters in the studio were often decorated with free linear drawing in black and rust, some of it indicating features, especially eyes, most of it freewheeling presumably to break up the whiteness of the plaster. About 1950 he began to paint some of the bronze casts completely, chiefly at that time and then when he painted them on site at the Venice Biennale in 1962 (fig. 6) and again for the opening of the Fondation Maeght at Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1964. He certainly believed that in principle his sculpture ought to be coloured" (Looking at Giacometti, New York, 1994, p. 102).

(fig. 1) Alberto Giacometti, Tête de Diego au col roulé, 1949-1950. Plaster version photographed in Giacometti's Paris Studio by Ernst Scheidegger. BARCODE: 27236741_FIG

(fig. 2) Giacometti with Diego and Annette, circa 1952. Photograph by Alexander Liberman. Alexander Liberman Photographic Collection and Archive Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California (2000 R. 19) copyright J. Paul Getty Trust. BARCODE: 25983272fig

(fig. 3) Alberto Giacometti, standing women and heads of Diego, mid-1950s. Photograph by Patricia Matisse, courtesy of the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation. BARCODE: 27236703_FIG

(fig. 4) Alberto Giacometti, L'Homme qui chavire, 1947. Sold, Christie's, New York, 9 May 2007, lot 51. BARCODE: 25494334_A

(fig. 5) Alberto Giacometti, Grande tête mince, 1954. Formerly in the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody; Sold, Christie's, New York, 4 May 2010, lot 13. BARCODE: 25999266C

(fig. 6) Alberto Giacometti, Tête sans crâne, 1957-1958. Painted bronze. Sold, Christie's, New York, 7 November 2012, lot 6. BARCODE: 32529036b

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