ALBERTO GIACOMETTI (1901-1966)
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI (1901-1966)
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI (1901-1966)
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ALBERTO GIACOMETTI (1901-1966)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI (1901-1966)

Femme de Venise III

Details
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI (1901-1966)
Femme de Venise III
signed and numbered ‘5/6 Alberto Giacometti’ (on the left side of the base) and inscribed with foundry mark ‘Susse F Paris’ (on the back of the base)
bronze with brown and green patina
Height: 46 5/8 in. (118.4 cm.)
Conceived in 1956 and cast in 1958
Provenance
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Private collection, New York.
Galerie de l’Elysée (Alex Maguy), Paris.
Gilbert H. Kinney, Washington, D.C. (1973).
Arnold Herstand & Company, New York (February 1984).
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above, 15 February 1984).
Galleria Pieter Coray, Lugano (acquired from the above, May 2000).
Kent Gallery, Inc. New York (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, May 2000.
Literature
H. Kramer, New York Times, 13 January 1966.
R. Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1971, pp. 142-143 (another cast illustrated, p. 119).
Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1974, pp. 24-25.
J. Dupin, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1978, no. 87.
B. Lamarche-Vadel, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1984, pp. 144-145.
J. Lord, Giacometti: A Biography, New York, 1985, pp. 355-357.
Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of his Work, Paris, 1991, p. 402 (another cast illustrated in color, pl. 378).
The Alberto Giacometti Database, no. 4456.
Exhibited
Lugano, Galleria Pieter Coray, Alberto Giacometti, March-May 1984, no. 7 (detail illustrated).
Kunsthalle Vienna; Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and London, Royal Academy of Art, Alberto Giacometti, February 1996-January 1997, pp. 24 and 176, no. 176 (illustrated, p. 176; illustrated again in color, pl. 60).
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum; Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art and Tochigi, Ashikaga Museum of Art, Alberto Giacometti, February-July 1997, p. 86, no. 39 (illustrated).
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Alberto Giacometti, June-October 1998, p. 101, no. 74 (illustrated, p. 63, fig. 35).
Seattle, Pivot Art + Culture, The Figure in Process: de Kooning to Kapoor 1955-2015, December 2015-February 2016, pp. 10 and 19 (illustrated in color, p. 18).
Special notice

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Lot Essay

In 1955 Alberto Giacometti received an invitation from the French state to represent the country at the Venice Biennale in June of the following year. Scheduled to take place at the same time was the artist’s first retrospective in Switzerland, held at the Kunsthalle Bern. These two events marked a seminal moment in the artist’s career, a point at which he received official recognition in both his native and adopted homes. In preparation for these two landmark shows, at the beginning of 1956, Giacometti entered a period of intense creativity, producing a landmark series of standing nude women that would become known as the Femmes de Venise.
This renowned group of figures was the result of an intense vision. Using a single armature, Giacometti worked and reworked the clay figures time and time again. He built up, broke down, and reworked his figures as he continuously modeled them. He desired that these new sculptures should be understood as having evolved by means of this exploratory, metamorphosing process: instead of aiming towards a final and conclusive state, he wanted to reveal the very act of making the figures by tracking their changing and varied states. Asked whether he thought the final product was better after more reworkings, he replied, “Absolutely not. Maybe no better than the first time. It’s rather that in realizing something very quickly and in a way successfully, I mistrust the speed. That’s to say, I want to begin again to see if it’ll succeed as well the second time” (quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, New York, 1994, p. 85).
Once he was satisfied with the figure or felt he had achieved a result that interested him the most at that moment, he asked his brother, Diego, to make a plaster cast of the clay figure—this would serve as the final product. As David Sylvester described, “the last of the states was no more definitive than its predecessors. All were provisional. And from his point of view, every head and standing figure was a state, hardly more than a means towards doing the next” (ibid., p. 85).
By May 1956, Giacometti had followed this process to create a total of fifteen plaster figures. He chose to exhibit ten of these at the Venice Biennale in two groups—one of four, and one of six “works in progress.” A further five were shown at his retrospective in Bern, titled there as Figure I through V. The following year, Giacometti selected a total of nine of these plasters—eight from Venice and one from Bern—to cast in bronze, titling them all Femmes de Venise, regardless of the one that had been shown in Switzerland. The group of nine were first displayed together in 1958 at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
“The Femmes de Venise,” Christian Klemm has written, “mark the halfway point in Giacometti's mature work; they bring together the different characteristics of his figures. The evocative name, which binds the individual figures into one group despite their differences, had an enhancing effect: as the figures became legendary, they came to be regarded as the epitome of his art. The extremely small, distant heads and the innovatively sloping pedestals, from which the over-size feet grow, still make them seem like revelatory, illusionistic visions… The tension in the mingling of goddess and concubine, of Egyptian cult image and decomposing corpse, is seen nowhere as vividly as in this group” (Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001, p. 218).
Each figure in this group of nine are individual—varying in appearance, dimensions, and proportions. Though they are numbered one through nine, this does not necessarily reflect the order in which they were initially modeled. While unique, some of the works share certain characteristics—the diminutive scale of the heads, for example. In contrast to some of the more naturalistically rendered anatomies, particularly I and IV, the present Femme de Venise III, like its close relations II, VII and IX, is elegantly elongated and more abstracted. With its flattened torso and arms tightly attached to its body, it is reminiscent of the ancient Egyptian statuary so admired by the artist. Yet, in contrast to this antique aesthetic, the present work is endowed with a contemporary haircut, a short bob, perhaps derived from the artist’s depictions of his wife and muse, Annette.
The Femmes de Venise stand at an important moment of transition in Giacometti’s art, serving as a compelling synthesis particularly with his work with the human figure. In 1947, the artist had a breakthrough when he began to model his iconic, attenuated figures. These works were created from memory, as the artist sought to reconcile perception and reality in a single sculpture. At the beginning of the following decade, the artist found that he had exhausted this avenue of aesthetic and expressive creation, and as a result, returned to working directly from life, using both his brother Diego, and new wife, Annette, as models for both his painting and his sculpture. As a result, his depictions of female figures became more individualized. While the hieratic, frontal posture remained, these standing nudes differed from his earlier, more “visionary” works—less a statement of universal humanity, and more a portrayal of a unique person, endowed with a distinct physical presence.
When he began his new series of standing women in 1956, Giacometti employed both strands of artistic discovery, combining insights he had taken from his life studies, while still pursuing an inner vision of his subject. Giacometti, therefore, did not work from a living model while modeling the Femmes de Venise. In this way, the Femmes de Venise marry the hieratic, timeless anonymity and distance of the late 1940s figures, with the greater individuality of his work from life. As a result, the works change as the viewer regards them—from afar they appear as a homogenous group; from close up, they transform into a tribe of women, each one distinct in appearance and form.
This dichotomy was described by the novelist and playwright Jean Genet, of whom Giacometti was a great admirer, in “The Studio of Alberto Giacometti,” published in 1957. Genet recounted how he was repeatedly drawn to the Femmes de Venise during the numerous visits he made to the sculptor’s studio:
“They give me this odd feeling: they are familiar, they walk in the street, yet they are in the depths of time, at the source of all being; they keep approaching and retreating in a sovereign immobility. If my gaze attempts to tame them, to approach them, then—but not furiously, not ranting or raging, simply by means of a distance between them and myself that I had not noticed, a distance so compressed and reduced it made them seem quite close—they take their distance and keep it: it is because this distance between them and myself has suddenly unfolded. Where are they going? Although their image remains visible, where are they?”
“I can't stop touching the statues: I look away and my hand continues its discoveries of its own accord: neck, head, nape of the neck, shoulders... The sensations flow to my fingertips. Each one is different, so that my hand traverses an extremely varied and vivid landscape... The backs of these women may be more human than their fronts. The nape of the neck, the shoulders, the small of the back, the buttocks seem to have been modeled more lovingly than any of the fronts. Seen from three-quarters, this oscillation from woman to goddess may be what is most disturbing: sometimes the emotion is unbearable... I cannot help returning to this race of gilded—and sometimes painted—sentries who, standing erect, motionless, keep watch” (quoted in E. White, ed., The Selected Writings of Jean Genet, Hopewell, 1993, pp. 317, 323, and 324).
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