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Vase modèle dit aigle

Vase modèle dit aigle
22 3⁄4 x 20 x 20 1⁄2 in. (58 x 51 x 52 cm.)
Executed circa 1934.
Walter Haas, Zurich
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
"Rencontres: La mode et l'art du costume," Vogue France, August 1935, p. 16 (another plaster illustrated in situ in a fashion photograph).
D. Marchesseau, Diego Giacometti, Paris, 1986, p. 33 (black version illustrated in situ in Jean-Michel Frank's showroom).
L.D. Sanchez, Jean-Michel Frank, Paris, 1997, pp. 25 and 31 (black version illustrated in situ in Jean-Michel Frank's showroom).
P.-E. Martin-Vivier, Jean-Michel Frank, Paris, 2006 (black version illustrated in situ in Jean-Michel Frank's showroom, p. 203; another plaster illustrated in situ in the Vogue August 1935 fashion photograph, p. 248).
P.-E. Martin-Vivier, Jean-Michel Frank: Un décorateur dans le Paris des années 30, exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent, Paris, 2009, p. 72 (another plaster illustrated).
The Alberto Giacometti Database, no. AGD 4419.
Mendrisio, Museo d'arte, Alberto Giacometti: Dialoghi con l'arte, September-November 2000, pp. 130-131, no. 105 (illustrated).
Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zeichen und Wunder, October-December 2016.

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Michael Baptist AVP, Co-Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

Vase modèle dit aigle was executed at an important moment in Alberto Giacometti’s career. Immersed in the production of decorative objects, he was also moving towards the end of his famed Surrealist phase. For around five years, the artist had been closely involved with this radical group and had found increasing acclaim and renowned for his art. His work of this time was imbued with a deep psychological dimension, embodying themes of eroticism, violence, death, trauma and dreams, inspired not by the natural world, but by automatic visions that appeared to the artist in his imagination. Often enigmatic and sensuous in character, Giacometti’s Surrealist objects often exude the same timeless quality as the present Vase modèle dit aigle. “The pieces he created are like objects he exhumed from imaginary civilisations,” Thierry Pautot has described (Giacometti, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2017, p. 37). Appearing at once like an ancient vessel, while at the same time, remaining entirely contemporary, it is a work of supreme elegance and refinement. Another version of this plaster is in the collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Giacometti began creating decorative objects in 1929 alongside his work as a sculptor. His first commission—the redecoration of the office of the banker, Pierre David-Weill—was facilitated by a fellow Surrealist, André Masson. At around the same time, Giacometti was introduced by Man Ray to the influential interior designer, Jean-Michel Frank. Together, Giacometti and his brother, Diego, who had a few years prior followed the artist to Paris from their native Switzerland, began making a number of decorative objects, often modeled in the white plaster that Frank preferred for his schemes, including lamps, wall sconces, chandeliers, bowls and vases. “Everyone who comes here or to the studio swoons over your work,” he wrote to Giacometti in 1934. “That’s the only thing they like… Don’t forget me = lamps, vases, and when will there be furniture?” (quoted in ibid., p. 36).

Giacometti’s relationship with Frank flourished in the mid-1930s. This productive collaboration saw the work of both brothers acquired by figures as diverse as Nelson Rockefeller in New York, and Elsa Schiaparelli and the Vicomte de Noailles in Paris. In March 1935, Frank opened a shop on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. In photographs of the opening, a black version of Vase modèle dit aigle is positioned prominently behind Frank, together with his key collaborators of the time: Giacometti, as well as Diego, Christian Bérard, Emilio Terry, and Adoplphe Chanaux, among others.

Giacometti, as Jean Leymarie has written, discerned “no rift between the fine and decorative arts,” thus, he “exercised the same care in creating utilitarian vases as he did in making the fantastic constructions he had on exhibit at the galleries of dealers Pierre Loeb and Pierre Colle” (“Preface,” in D. Marchesseau, Diego Giacometti, New York, 1987, p. 12). Indeed, at times, his explorations in one field informed those in the other. This visual synthesis in many ways culminated with the artist’s La table surréaliste of 1933, in which an assortment of abstract and figurative sculptures are arranged upon a table—a visual union of both of these leading elements of his oeuvre at this time. In 1948, Giacometti told his gallerist, Pierre Matisse, “I am able to make objects not only because Diego works very well and deals with all aspects of casting…but objects interest me hardly any less than sculpture, and there is a point at which the two touch” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2019, p. 36)

By the time he executed Vase modèle dit aigle, Giacometti was slowly beginning to leave behind his Surrealist period and return to work from life once more. In many ways this shift is evidenced in the present work. The recognizable, though stylized and simplified head of an eagle is perched upon the rim of the vase. When regarded from the side, the top of the undulant vessel appears as the expansively outstretched wings of the bird, its silhouette perfectly encapsulating the concept of the bird in flight. The motif of the bird would return again in Giacometti’s art, and likewise, often appears in pieces created by Diego.

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