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Nu debout sur socle cubique

Nu debout sur socle cubique
signed and numbered 6⁄8 Alberto Giacometti' (on the right side of the base); stamped with the foundry mark 'Susse Fondeur Paris' (on the back of the base); stamped again with the foundry mark ‘SUSSE fres FONDEUR PARIS CIRE PERDUE’ (inside the base)
bronze with dark brown patina
Height: 17 1⁄8 in. (43.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1953; cast in bronze in 1991 by Susse Fondeur in a edition of ten, numbered 0⁄8-8/8 plus a Fondation cast
Annette Giacometti, Paris.
Alice Tériade, Paris, a gift from the above.
Heinz Berggruen, Berlin & Paris, a gift from the above in 1991, and thence by descent to the present owners.
The Alberto Giacometti Database, no. 4407.
Sale room notice
Please note this work is recorded in The Alberto Giacometti Database, no. 4407.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Evening Sale, Head of Department

Lot Essay

With a distinguished provenance, Alberto Giacometti’s Nu debout sur socle cubique presents one of the defining subjects of the sculptor’s oeuvre, the female figure. In this work, Giacometti has truncated the female figure to her knees and placed it upon a cubic base, creating a bold visual contrast between this geometric form and the undulating outline of the figure’s body as well as the vigorously modelled and richly textured surface of the sculpture. At this time, the female figure formed an important part of Giacometti’s work, culminating in 1956 with his landmark series, the Femmes de Venise.

The collection history of Nu debout sur socle cubique tells the story of various artistic friendships over the course of the twentieth century. This work was first in the collection of the artist’s wife, Annette, after which it was acquired by Alice Tériade. Alice was the wife of the famed, Greek born publisher, Stratis Eleftheriadis, who was better known as Tériade. Renowned for his involvement in founding the Surrealist periodical, Minotaure, as well as the quarterly journal Verve, Tériade was also responsible for publishing the work of artists including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Marc Chagall, facilitating collaborations between these figures as well as the leading poets of the time in the creation of unique art books.

Tériade and his wife knew Giacometti well; Tériade had sat for Giacometti, and owned several of this works, including plaster ceiling lights. Alice initially owned the painted plaster of this subject. In 1989, Annette Giacometti approached her with two requests. She wanted Alice to donate her plaster to what would become the Fondation Giacometti, and in addition, she wanted to create a bronze edition of ten works from this plaster. Alice agreed to Annette’s requests, and in return, she acquired five bronzes of this edition, including the present work. The plaster and the cast marked 1⁄8 now reside in the Fondation Giacometti, Paris. In 1991, Alice gave the present cast as a gift to Heinz Berggruen, in whose family collection it has remained until the present day.

Conceived in 1953, Nu debout sur socle cubique dates from a period during which Giacometti embraced reality once more in his sculpture. In the early 1950s, Giacometti started to return to the model in his practice, believing he had exhausted the possibilities of his attenuated, exaggeratedly elongated figures that had fully emerged in his art in 1947. As a result, his work became more three-dimensional once again, and frequently featured the two leading presences in his life: his brother, Diego, and wife, Annette. The present work encapsulates this shift in Giacometti’s art. Compared to the soaring verticality of Giacometti’s recent work, the figure appears more earthbound, her presence and form resolutely physical.

Giacometti’s female figures, with their inscrutable visage, and static, monumental poise, have elicited a range of artistic interpretation and description. As David Sylvester so vividly described of the artist’s women, ‘They rise from the ground as if rooted. And they are poised in flight like medieval saints zooming complacently up to heaven. They are deities, remote, imperious, untouchable, and they are vulnerable naked girls trying to attract customers at a cabaret. They are like dancers when a dancer stands motionless and seems to be drawing her body and the ambient air inward to a still center. And they are like the dead, their heads indrawn and dry as skulls, limbs bound as though bandaged for the grave’ (Looking at Giacometti, London, 1994, pp. 30-31). In the present work, the female figure is rendered as if an ancient fertility goddess, her hands, breasts, and buttocks exaggerated in a way reminiscent of the pre-historic Venus of Willdendorf. Yet, her bobbed haircut, one of the few more personalized elements of this depiction, suggests this is a contemporary woman, perhaps Annette herself.

Unlike their male counterparts in Giacometti’s art, figures who step forward, point, or, at the most extreme, are captured in mid-air, falling to the ground, his women are by contrast rooted to the ground, hieratic and impassive. Yet, these works are rarely static. The surface imparts a powerful sense of energy, as if the figure is trembling and alive. Once again, Sylvester has described this effect, ‘they are not quite still. Their surface, broken and agitated, flickers and the figures, rigid in their posture, perpetually tremble on the edge of movement’ (ibid., p. 11).

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