In the early 1930s, Alberto Giacometti was introduced to the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, also known as “Schiap”, probably through a mutual friend, the interior designer Jean-Michel Frank. In the late 1920s and early 1930s Giacometti was affected by the financial crisis and had started to create ‘bijoux’, selling them to his wealthy friends and circle, including Frank, for some additional regular income.
Aware of these small works that Giacometti had been creating, around 1936 Schiaparelli asked Giacometti to design models for a number of buttons and brooches for possible use in her highly inventive fashion designs. Schiaparelli dominated Paris couture in the 1930s and became a star of its social and artistic milieu, developing an international reputation, and working closely with a number of artists – Leonor Fini designed a perfume bottle for her scent ‘Shocking’ in 1937.
Although Giacometti’s designs were never realised, some, such as Sphinge were cast in very small numbers and given away or sold by Giacometti to his close circle. One of the casts of Sphinge was part of Elsa’s personal collection, a private gift from Giacometti.