Diego Giacometti (1902-1985)
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Diego Giacometti (1902-1985)

Table de coiffeuse avec oiseau et coupe; Tabouret de coiffeuse avec souris

Diego Giacometti (1902-1985)
Table de coiffeuse avec oiseau et coupe; Tabouret de coiffeuse avec souris
the tabouret stamped 'M' (on the right finial of the backrest)
bronze with golden brown patina
Table height: 29 3/8 in. (74.6 cm.)
Mirror height: 22 1/4 in. (56.6 cm.)
Tabouret height: 23 3/8 in. (59.2 cm.)
Conceived circa 1960 and cast before 1963; the table one of two recorded examples; the tabouret unique
Commissioned from the artist by the family of the present owner, and thence by descent.
M. Butor, Diego Giacometti, Paris, 1985, pp. 8 & 108 (the table and tabouret illustrated in situ p. 108).
D. Marchesseau, Diego Giacometti, Paris, 1986, pp. 42 & 221 (the table and tabouret illustrated in situ p. 42).
F. Francisci, Diego Giacometti, Catalogue de l’œuvre, vol. I, Paris, 1986, p. 65 (another cast of the table illustrated).
Y. Maeght, I. Maeght & F. Maubert, The Maeght Family: A Passion for Modern Art, New York, 2007, p. 232.
Exh. cat., Giacometti & Maeght, 1946-1966, Saint-Paul de Vence, 2010, pp. 25.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay

‘The sculptor, that’s Diego’
Alberto Giacometti

‘Diego was a unique specimen of noble independence and amused sagacity. Rare and perhaps more precious, his destiny as a poet-craftsman was slowly, silently forged, uniting the care of the functional with the charm and freshness of the marvellous’
Jean Leymarie

‘Built upon a rhythmic harmony as old as time, [Giacometti’s] work had a sobriety and humour where trees, birds, and frogs came together’
Henri Cartier-Bresson

Part of a deeply personal commission from the artist by the family of the present owner, Table de coiffeuse avec oiseau et coupe and the accompanying Tabouret de coiffeuse avec souris are rare and important examples of Diego Giacometti’s unique artistic practice. Giacometti occupies a unique and unparalleled position in the history of 20th Century art and design. Sculptor, designer, artisan, as well as a trusted accomplice and vital muse for his brother Alberto, Giacometti merged the worlds of sculpture and furniture design to create functional objects that are endowed with a unique sense of poetry, whimsy and magic. While the name of his brother immediately conjures images of elongated, emaciated bronze figures and hauntingly enigmatic, thickly impastoed paintings, Diego Giacometti likewise forged a distinctive and instantly recognisable style; his elegant works revered the world over. His exquisitely designed and carefully crafted bronze pieces – tables, chairs, chandeliers, among many others – are lovingly brought to life by the artist's unique imagination, his innate sense of proportion, and his profound love of nature. Giacometti considered himself an artisan whose only goal was to create beautiful and useful objects, and, in his pursuit of this desire, he created a body of work that constitutes a fantastical realm of poetry. Above all, his oeuvre is one that, as Jean Leymarie has written, combines ‘the useful, and the charm and freshness of the marvellous’ (J. Leymarie, ‘Preface’, in D. Marchesseau, Diego Giacometti, Paris, 1986, p.22). Filled with enchanting details – the mouse that appears to scamper up one of the legs of the tabouret, and the bird that sits on one of the stretchers of the coiffeuse – these rare pieces encapsulate this fundamental artistic aim and embody his unique form of artistry.

It was at the suggestion of his mother that, in 1925, Diego travelled to Paris to join his elder brother Alberto. Moving into a small, dilapidated studio at 46 rue Hippolyte-Maindron in 1926, the brothers quickly became inseparable. As Alberto forged his career as a sculptor, Diego became a constant and crucial presence in his life, and the two quickly became central figures within the avant-garde art world of Paris. ‘United since childhood by an extreme understanding and the polarity of their complementary temperaments, they lived in symbiosis, without giving up their autonomy’, the artists’ friend Jean Leymarie has written. ‘Diego, more mature and removed from his former milieu, surrounded by new friends, revealed his aesthetic sense and his extreme dexterity’ (J. Leymarie, quoted in F. Baudot, Diego Giacometti, Paris, 2001, p. 8). With a shared passion for art and a dedication to craftsmanship, the brothers began to work together. In 1929, at the request of Jean-Michel Frank, one of Paris’s leading interior designers, they began making a number of decorative pieces including lamps, wall sconces and vases. This productive collaboration saw the decorative pieces of both brothers integrated into the schemes of figures as diverse as Nelson Rockefeller in New York, and Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris.

It was these commissions that opened the door for Diego Giacometti’s career, as the pair worked together, as well as separately, on many of the pieces. When, during the Occupation, Alberto returned to his native Switzerland, Diego, upon finding himself alone in occupied Paris, began to work on his own sculpture, able to explore his own creativity without the presence of his brother. Building on practices he had learnt in his youth while serving as an assistant to a sculptor of funerary monuments in Italy, he attended live model classes and frequented the Jardin des Plantes to study the animals there. Gradually, nature began to blossom in his sculptural work, as he created a unique world in which foxes, cats and birds and more adorned his functional yet fantastical creations in bronze.

From the early 1950s onwards, Giacometti’s renown started to spread across France. For various patrons, collectors, dealers and designers, Giacometti created an astounding number of furniture pieces and objects, including the present coiffeuse and tabouret de coiffeuse, as well as lamps, tables and chairs, mirrors, vases, stair cases, lamp sconces and even a library. Each piece encapsulates Diego’s unique form of craftsmanship, filled with the poeticism, elegant simplicity and beguiling enigma that defines his work.

At the time that he conceived the Table de coiffeuse avec oiseau et coupe and the Tabouret de coiffeuse avec souris, Diego had become one of the forefront figures in the world of design. He was celebrated in his own right, producing commissions for a host of distinguished patrons, including Pierre Matisse, the couturier Hubert de Givenchy and filmmaker Raoul Lévy, to name but a few, while his creations were also highly sought after by the leading decorators of the time, including Henri Samuel and Georges Geffroy. In 1984, he was commissioned by the French state to create works for the interior of Paris’s Musée Picasso at the Hotel Salé; this was to be the artist’s final and most important project, and his magical, majestic pieces continue to delight and beguile visitors today.

The present pieces encapsulate entirely Giacometti’s distinctive artistic style. Fusing a range of influences from antiquity to modernism, Diego created furniture and decorative objects that were simultaneously functional yet sculptural; simple, geometric and minimal yet infused with an enchanting elegance. Like his brother’s expressive, highly textured sculptural surfaces, Diego employed the form of visible, roughly hewn modelling, leaving traces of the artist’s presence visible. Yet, the sense of haunting existential angst that characterises Alberto’s sculpture is countered by the whimsical, delicate poeticism of Diego’s work, all of which is imbued with a sense of timelessness and otherworldliness, as if they were relics of another era or even, another world.

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