Christies specialist Hans-Peter Keller with Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), Figurine de Londres I, 1965 (Guss 1966). Offered in Swiss Art Sale on 18 September 2018 at Christie’s in

5 minutes with… Giacometti’s Figurine de Londres I

Modelled by Alberto, cast by Diego, and owned by their younger brother Bruno — whom specialist Hans-Peter Keller knew well — this bronze, offered on 18 September, is emblematic of one of the most celebrated sibling relationships of the 20th century

‘When I first saw this little figurine, I fell in love right away,’ says Hans-Peter Keller, Impressionist and Modern Art specialist at Christie’s in Zurich, of Alberto Giacometti’s Figurine de Londres I. ‘It’s indisputably an Alberto Giacometti: you don’t even have to look for the signature.’

The model for this female figure — just 26 cm high, and offered on 18 September in the Swiss Art Sale at Christie’s in Zurich — was executed in plaster in 1965, while Giacometti was in London preparing for his retrospective at the Tate Gallery. It represented a continuation of the unmistakeable style of long, slender figures that he had developed in the late 1940s, the majority of which were based upon his brother Diego Giacometti, and his wife, Annette. The male figures are most often depicted walking, while the female figures, like this one, are standing. 

‘Alberto was always trying to get as much as he could from the plaster,’ notes Keller. ‘He was endlessly modelling it with his fingers, pulling things away — but never adding. As a result, the figures got thinner and thinner; the head, the body, everything. We know that his pieces, whether sculpture or portraits, could take weeks to complete. He was never satisfied. He was never finished.’

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), Figurine de Londres I, 1965 (Guss 1966). 25,9 x 9,1 x 13,6 cm. Estimate CHF 300,000-400,000. Offered in Swiss Art Sale on 18 September 2018 at Christie’s in Zurich

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), Figurine de Londres I, 1965 (Guss 1966). 25,9 x 9,1 x 13,6 cm. Estimate: CHF 300,000-400,000. Offered in Swiss Art Sale on 18 September 2018 at Christie’s in Zurich

Alberto died in 1966, and shortly afterwards his brother, Diego Giacometti, cast Figurine de Londres I  in bronze. ‘Of course Alberto was the artist — his hands shaped each piece — but it was Diego who cast most of this little figurine,’ explains Keller. ‘Without Diego, Alberto could not have done the work that he did. This figurine has an exceptionally nice patina. Diego knew exactly how his brother would have wanted it.’

Following Alberto’s death, Figurine de Londres I  entered the collection of his younger brother, Bruno Giacometti, an architect. Keller knew Bruno very well. ‘He lived near Zurich, and I saw him regularly for many, many years,’ the specialist recounts. ‘I visited him at his house almost every week after the death of his wife, Odette, in 2007. At that time, Bruno had just celebrated his 100th birthday.’


‘I love the size of this piece. You don’t need a villa or a huge garden to put it in. You can take it with you. It’s very intimate and personal’

As the specialist recalls, the architect’s house was filled with jaw-dropping art. ‘There were pieces from Alberto; from Diego; from his father, Giovanni Giacometti, who was also an artist. He had also been very close with Eduardo Chillida, so there were many works by Chillida as well. And he knew absolutely everything about these artists. That’s why I so enjoyed going to see him; he told me stories that you can’t read in books.’

When Bruno died, at the age of 104, the majority of the works in his estate went to Zürich’s Kunsthaus museum. But he gifted some pieces, including this figurine, to friends.

‘Alberto made so many large figures, which are enormous and impressive. But I love the size of this piece so much,’ says Keller. ‘You don't need a villa or a huge garden to put it in. You can take it with you. It's very intimate and personal.’