Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)

Diego au chandail

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Diego au chandail
signed and numbered '4/6 Alberto Giacometti' (on the right side of the base); inscribed with the foundry mark 'Susse. Fondeur. Paris' (on the back of the base)
bronze with dark green patina
Height: 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm.)
Conceived in 1953 and cast in 1954
Galerie Maeght, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in February 1955.
J. Dupin, ‘Giacometti sculpteur et peintre’, in Cahiers d’art, vol. XXIX, no. 1, Paris, October 1954, no. 43 (another cast illustrated).
P. Bucarelli, Alberto Giacometti, Rome, 1962, no. 60 (another cast illustrated).
F. Meyer, Alberto Giacometti: Eine Kunst Existentieller Wirklichkeit, Stuttgart, 1968, no. 22, p. 181 (another cast illustrated).
M. Negri & A. Terrasse, Giacometti Sculptures, L’Angoisse de voir, Paris, 1969, no. 7 (another cast illustrated).
C. Huber, Alberto Giacometti, Zurich, 1970, p. 69 (another cast illustrated).
R. Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1971, p. 308 (another cast illustrated p. 257).
C. Juliet, Giacometti, Paris, 1985, p. 96 (another cast illustrated).
H. & M. Matter, Alberto Giacometti photographié par Herbert Matter, Paris, 1989, pp. 106-109 (another cast illustrated).
Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, no. 426, p. 442 (another cast illustrated).
A. Schneider, Alberto Giacometti Sculpture - Paintings - Drawings, Munich, 1994, no. 90 (another cast illustrated).
The Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation Database, no. 3404.
Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Schweizer Kunst im 20. Jahrhundert, April - October 1964.
Pforzheim, Reuchlinhaus, Schweizer Malerei und Plastik 1945-1965, February - March 1966; this exhibition later travelled to Koblenz, Kaiserslautern, Wuppertal and Bremen.
St Gallen, Kunstverein, Giacometti, September 1979.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Sammlungen Hans und Walter Bechtler, August - October 1982, p. 174 (illustrated).
Lugano, Galleria Pierre Coray, Alberto Giacometti, March - May 1984, no. 9 (illustrated).
Ascona, Museo Communale d’Arte Moderna, Alberto Giacometti, sculture, dipinti, disegni, September - October 1985, no. 7, p. 57 (illustrated).
Karlsruhe, Prinz Max Palais, Konstruktion und Geste, Schweizer Kunst der 50er Jahre, April - June 1986; this exhibition later travelled to Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, July - September 1986, and Schaffhausen, Museum zu Allerheiligen, September - November 1986.
Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Dimension, petit: l’art suisse entre petite sculpture et objet: d’Alberto Giacometti à nos jours, October - December 1989.
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Alberto Giacometti, November 1990 - January 1991, no. 240, p. 526 (illustrated p. 527).
Special notice
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Sale room notice
Please note that the medium of this work is bronze with dark green patina and not as stated in the catalogue

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Anna Povejsilova
Anna Povejsilova

Lot Essay

Conceived in 1953, Diego au chandail belongs to a series of busts and heads that Alberto Giacometti made of his brother Diego between 1951 and 1957. The work’s reference to Diego’s chandail – jumper – echoes other busts in which the artist alluded to specific clothing details, such as Diego au manteau and Diego au col roulé, also executed around the same time. In Diego au chandail, the presence of the jumper creates a mighty effect, trickling down Diego’s body like a flow of black lava and condensing at the bottom just enough to evoke the presence of his hands, clasped together on his lap. Above this powerful mountain of raw matter, Diego’s head emerges, in all its fragility and commanding presence.

Either for convenience or because of a secret fascination for the people he knew best, Giacometti always portrayed those closest to him: his mother Annetta, his wife Annette and his brother Diego. Of all his subjects, however, the latter is the one who most closely accompanied Giacometti throughout his life, from his early attempts at sculpture when still only a boy, until his final years. In 1914 – when Giacometti was only thirteen years old – Diego sat for one of the very first sculpted portraits made by the would-be artist. That first, perceptive portrait marked the beginning of a long process of scrutiny: throughout the years, Diego would sit, patiently and immobile, in front of his brother, becoming the subject of some of his most significant paintings and sculptures. In 1965, shortly before Giacometti’s death, Diego, no longer a twelve year old boy but a 63 year old man, was still posing for his brother for the bust New York I. Giacometti’s art had also matured: it had relinquished the clear lines and ample volumes of classic art and had acquired a troubled, yet poignant form. Diego au chandail should be appreciated in the context of this trajectory: the work is a testimony to the constant presence of Diego, yet it marks a point of crucial development in the art of Giacometti.

By the time Giacometti executed Diego au chandail, Diego had become much more than a reliable model. After the Second World War, he had in fact assumed the role of a collaborator and a crucial presence in the daily life of his brother Alberto. As Giacometti’s biographer James Lord notes, Diego’s ‘hands touched every sculpture that came from Alberto’s’ (J. Lord, Giacometti: A Biography, London, 1986, p. 329). Intimately knowing the art of his brother, Diego was the only one who could prepare the delicate armatures Alberto needed for his sculptures and who could successfully manage the demanding task of giving the right patina to his bronzes. Arriving at the studio in the early morning, Diego would make plaster casts of the works on which Alberto had worked during the night. During the day, while Alberto slept to recover from the night of intense work, he would take care of the studio until the evening, when he sometimes posed for his brother, undaunted by his curses and imprecations at the difficulty of his task. In the early 1950s, Diego had started to design the bronze furniture that would eventually seal his own fame. Yet, until the end, Diego remained in Alberto's studio, casting, preparing, and, of course, posing.

Giacometti's depictions of Diego should not be considered as ordinary portraits. The artist never strived to convey something essential of the sitter's personality or emotions, only attempting to capture the experience of his presence, the essence of the perception of his form. Giacometti admitted: 'Personally I am quite incapable of expressing any human feelings in my work. I just try to construct a head, nothing more' (Giacometti, quoted in Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Works, Paris, 1991, p. 376). The entirety of Giacometti's Post-War artistic production was centred on this challenging ambition. While, for centuries before, artists had endeavoured to convey ideals and ideas through their art, Giacometti had set for himself the opposite challenge: to be able to strip art down to pure perception, apprehending the visible without any preconceived form or notion. The vibrant forms of Giacomett's portraits are an expression of the artist’s realisation that a person encompasses above all a 'consciousness', a sense of life that is conveyed through his features, what Bonnefoy termed the 'meta-plastic' aspects (Y. Bonnefoy, op. cit., p. 374). The 'likeness' Giacometti strived to achieve in sculptural portraits such as Diego au chandail hinged on the artist's ability to capture the perception of life within a human face.

In Diego au chandail, Bonnefoy perceived a particularly strong, symbolic expression of Giacometti's artistic challenge: '… this is obvious in Diego in a sweater, a work which sums up several years’ reflection. Here, the reduction of the face to what Giacometti called life, and I would rather call the act of being, results in this scrap of plaster, later of bronze, which is almost matterless and yet of extraordinary density, an intense cluster of energy. But the impression of smallness in the head… undoubtedly owns much to the relative immensity of the trunk and arms of his bust… 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, has ceased to be something one must learn not to look at or even see. It 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' (Y. Bonnefoy, op. cit., pp. 436-437). Works such as Diego au chandail not only affirm Giacometti’s triumph over the inert, dead matter of sculpture; by reflecting on the subtle and complex manifestation of life in the face of a human being, they also appear as symbolic celebrations of life’s ineffable, yet undeniable force.

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