6 More
9 More
Property from a Prestigious Private Collection, Sold to Benefit a Nonprofit Organization

Femme couchée qui rêve

Femme couchée qui rêve
signed, numbered and inscribed with foundry mark 'Alberto Giacometti 3/6 Susse Fondeur Paris' (on the top of the base)
bronze with dark brown patina
Height: 9 1/4 in. (23.4 cm.)
Length: 16 3/4 in. (42 cm.)
Conceived in 1929 and cast in 1959
(probably) Lawrence Rubin, New York (acquired from the artist).
Private collection, New York (probably acquired from the above, circa 1960).
Gift from the above to the present owner, circa 1993.
M. Leiris, "Alberto Giacometti" in Documents, no. 4, September 1929, pp. 210 and 213-214 (plaster version illustrated in situ at Galerie Pierre in 1929, pp. 213 and 214).
H.H. Arnason, Modern Sculpture from the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Collection, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1962, pp. 103 and 167, no. 111 (another cast illustrated, p. 103).
P. Bucarelli, Giacometti, Rome, 1962, p. 75, no. 10 (plaster version illustrated in situ at Galerie Pierre in 1929).
J. Dupin, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1962, p. 200 (plaster version illustrated).
D. Sylvester, ed., Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1965, no. 10 (plaster version illustrated, pl. 7).
C. Adreane, "Dada and the Surrealists" in Christian Science Monitor, vol. 60, 27 April 1968, p. 9 (another cast illustrated).
F. Meyer, Alberto Giacometti, Zurich, 1968, p. 60, no. 4a (illustrated).
J. Leymarie, Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1969, pp. 16 and 148, no. 17 (plaster illustrated, p. 16).
C. Huber, Alberto Giacometti, Lausanne, 1970, p. 30 (another cast illustrated).
R. Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, Stuttgart, 1971, pp. 79 and 307 (another cast illustrated, p. 51).
M. Brenson, The Early Work of Alberto Giacometti: 1925-1935, Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 1974, pp. 46-47, 67, 116, 139, 175 and 234 (plaster version illustrated, fig. 26).
R. Hohl, ed., Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1974, pp. 20 and 59, no. 18 (another cast illustrated, p. 60).
A. Lerner et al., Selected Paintings and Sculpture from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, New York, 1974, pp. 288, 401 and 695 (another cast illustrated, p. 401).
E. Henning, The Spirit of Surrealism, exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art, 1979, pp. 123 and 173, no. 72 (another cast illustrated, p. 123).
T.S. Evans, ed., Alberto Giacometti and America, New York, 1984, pp. 99, 104 and 107.
B. Lamarche-Vadel, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1984, p. 39, no. 52 (another cast illustrated).
V. Fletcher, Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 1988, pp. 24, 26 and 88, no. 13 (another cast illustrated, p. 89).
K.M. de Barañano, Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 1990, pp. 52, 54 and 674 (another cast illustrated, pp. 52 and 674).
C. Klemm, Die Sammlung der Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung, Zurich, 1990, pp. 67 and 154, no. 23 (another cast illustrated, p. 66).
Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of his Work, Paris, 1991, pp. 163 and 165, no. 157 (plaster version illustrated, p. 165).
S. Pagé, Alberto Giacometti: Sculptures, peintures, dessins, exh. cat., Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, 1991, p. 130, no. 43 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 131).
A. Schneider, ed., Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, New York, 1994, pp. 15 and 55 (plaster version illustrated in situ at Galerie Pierre in 1929, p. 15; another cast illustrated, p. 56 and pl. 19).
D. Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, New York, 1994, pp. 42 and 43.
T. Stooss and P. Elliott, Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 1996, p. 144, nos. 62a and 62b (plaster version illustrated in situ at Galerie Pierre in 1929, p. 14, fig. 10; other casts illustrated, p. 144 and in color, p. 17).
C. Klemm, et al., Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich, 2001, pp. 19, 84 and 269, no. 33 (plaster version illustrated in situ at Galerie Pierre in 1929, p. 19, fig. 5; another cast illustrated, p. 79).
V. Wiesinger, Alberto Giacometti au Donjon de Vez, Œuvres de la Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, Vez, 2005, p. 18 (another cast illustrated, p. 19).
A. González, Alberto Giacometti: Works, Writings, Interviews, Barcelona, 2006, pp. 26 and 28 (plaster version illustrated, p. 26; plaster version illustrated again in situ at Galerie Pierre in 1929, p. 32).
V. Wiesinger, L'atelier d'Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Fondation Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 2007, pp. 98 and 113, no. 91 (another cast illustrated, p. 98).
M. Fontanella and K.P.B. Vail, eds., Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2018, pp. 20 and 59, no. 18 (another cast illustrated, p. 59).
The Alberto Giacometti Database, no. 4477.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

Femme couchée qui rêve of 1929 belongs to an innovative series of sculptures that brought the young Alberto Giacometti’s work to the attention of Paris’s leading avant-garde group of the time: the Surrealists. This deeply poetic vision of femininity reflects the artist’s response to the electrifying intellectual and artistic atmosphere of Paris in the 1920s, marking the beginning of his alignment with Surrealism. From this moment onwards, Giacometti’s sculptures would evolve to embrace an abstract, geometric style that was imbued with a strangely evocative power, presenting simplified, stylized and often haunting visions of humanity. Appearing at auction for the first time, this important Surrealist-inspired work is believed to be the only known cast of this edition to remain in private hands; others are in The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Fondation Giacometti, Paris; The Kunstmuseum Basel and The Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung, Zurich.
From movements such as Cubism and Surrealism, to artists including Constantin Brancusi and Pablo Picasso, and even Existential philosophy, in the 1920s, Giacometti ingested contemporaneous developments in the service of his deeply personal—and immediately recognizable—visual idiom. The latter half of this decade was a particularly generative and exploratory period for the artist. Femme couchée qui rêve occupies a unique moment in Giacometti’s artistic development, revealing the influence of art from Africa, Oceania, and pre-Archaic Europe, as well as highlighting his transition away from a preoccupation with Cubism as his work became increasingly aligned with the Surrealists.
The material provided by these varied sources is apparent in the radical formal construction of Femme couchée qui rêve. Like its male counterpart, Homme (Apollon) (please see lot 11), here, Giacometti has reduced the elements signifying the subject to their bare essentials, schematically rendering a reclining woman who, as the title imparts, is lost in the realm of dreams. Two undulating parallel lines traverse a limited space, defined by the work’s sculpted base, and link two upright pillars, which function visually as both boundary markers and perhaps, bedposts. The horizontal waveforms—which can be read as bed or body—are twice interrupted. First, by the sleepy tilt of a spoon-like element, its bowl seeming to rest upon one of the pillars. The second is more violent, coming in the form of three forceful diagonal lines, which penetrate through the uppermost horizontal before piercing the lower. Yet, as Yves Bonnefoy has written about the present work and a closely related work, also titled Femme couchée, of the same year, “These curves rise and fall in a friendly, unmenacing way, their rhythms seem to speak of peaceful flesh and, above all, they suggest bodies without afflicting them with anti-human or abstract signs, so that one is compelled to think of real women, such as perhaps they exist in life” (Alberto Giacometti, A Biography of his Work, Paris, 1991, p. 165).
The present work builds upon Giacometti’s early non-figurative representations of the human body, which drew inspiration from the frontal geometry of Cubism and the hieratic compositions of non-Western art and sculpture. Initial experimentations led to his so-called “plaque figures,” whose broad, quadrilateral forms depart from the literal representation of the human body. The rectangular shape of Femme couchée qui rêve echoes the plaques’ construction, but here the artist has carved into the work, excavating the solidity of his cubist explorations to puncture the form with negative space. Further, Giacometti is here moving away from the plaques’ emphatic frontality. Femme couchée qui rêve has a clearly delineated front, but the artist is beginning to engage with alternate views (such as the work’s back and profile) to create a more engaging, interactive viewing experience.
At this time, Giacometti was a frequent visitor of the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro, as well as the Musée des Antiquités nationales, both of which displayed a range of objects—including plaster casts of recent archaeological finds—from Africa, the Cyclades, and more. The exaggerated depictions of sexual attributes found in these works (primarily orifices for the woman, and external appendages for the man) likely shaped Giacometti’s own preoccupation with images of “male” and “female,” as he worked to reduce these roles to their most elemental and universal signifiers.
In the symbolism of its construction, Femme couchée qui rêve develops the visual language Giacometti had explored in an earlier work, Femme cuillère of 1927. Here, Giacometti exaggerated the symbol of the feminine as vessel, reducing it to a smooth concave form which evokes female fertility in the form of the womb. This form has been particularly linked with the anthropomorphic ceremonial spoons carved by the Dan peoples of what is now Liberia and the Côte d’Ivoire. In Femme couchée qui rêve the spoon form retains the conceit of the female as defined by its function as a fertile receptacle. The belly of the spoon, however, has been reduced from the near totality of the figure to a constituent part, appearing as womb and head simultaneously. Laurie Wilson posits that the three central diagonals owe as well to Paleolithic pictographs. She asserts that these stem from cave paintings which deploy three or four parallel lines to symbolized the masculine, and states that they enact the “penetration” of the reclining woman with “male verticals” (Alberto Giacometti: Myth, Magic, and the Man, London, 2003, p. 101).
The Surrealists, too, appropriated imagery from Africa and Oceania, which they believed were closer to the material expression of the unconscious than contemporary European art. Led by the writer André Breton, the Surrealists relied on dreams and hallucinations to abolish “the hegemony of the conscious and the everyday” (quoted in L. Tythacott, Surrealism and the Exotic, London, 2003, n.p.). Giacometti’s relationship with the movement began in 1929, though he did not consider himself officially involved with them until 1930. In Femme couchée qui rêve, whose title in English is Reclining Woman who Dreams, the connection with the Surrealist’s emphasis on dreams to access the subconscious speaks to this burgeoning relationship.
Like Homme (Apollon), Femme couchée qui rêve was featured in Michel Leiris’s Documents article of 1929. In one of the now iconic photographs of these breakthrough works, the present work appears prominently, placed in front of a plaster plaque work, titled Femme to create a bold contrast between the artist’s rapidly developing conception of the female figure. Leiris poetically described in his piece, “these figures…produced by [Giacometti’s] fingers and moulded in the fleeting and unbitter salt of the snow, the dust that comes from fingernails as they are being polished, the impalpable ashes a lover would keep as a relic… the salt of tears, tears of laughter, despair or madness… heavy tears full of the salt of bones… there is nothing dead about this sculpture; on the contrary, like the real fetishes one might idolize…everything is prodigiously alive!” (quoted in Giacometti, exh. cat., London, 2017, p. 40).

More from 20th Century Evening Sale

View All
View All