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Details & Cataloguing

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Alberto Giacometti
1901 - 1966
BUSTE DE DIEGO (AMÉNOPHIS)
Inscribed with the signature Alberto Giacometti and with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur Paris, dated 1954 and numbered 3/8 twice
Bronze
Height: 15 1/4 in.; 38.7 cm
Conceived in 1954 and cast before 1956.
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The authentication of this work has been confirmed by the Comité Giacometti, working under the authority of the artist's moral right, and will be published in their forthcoming Catalogue raisonné

Provenance

Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist)

Acquired from the above in 1956

Literature

Palma Bucarelli, Giacometti, Rome, 1962, no. 50, illustration of another cast (titled Bust of the Brother Diego and as dating from 1952-53)


Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1983, illustration of another cast no. 29, n.p.

Bernard Lamarche-Vadel, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1984, no. 218, illustration of another cast p. 151 (titled Buste mince)

André Kuenzi, ed., Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, 1986, illustration of another cast no. 131, pp. 147 & 273 (titled Buste mince sur socle)

Herbert & Mercedes Matter, Giacometti, New York, 1987, illustrations of another cast pp. 77, 116 & 117

Familia Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico, 1987, illustration of a painted bronze cast no. 44, p. 79

Kosme María de Barañano, ed., Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 1990-91, illustration of a painted bronze cast no. 225, p. 501 (titled Petit buste sur socle (Amenophis))

Tahar Ben Jelloun, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1991, illustration of another cast p. 19

Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti. A Biography of his Work, Paris, 1991, illustration of another cast p. 441

Laurie Wilson, Alberto Giacometti: Myth, Magic, and the Man, New Haven, 2005, illustration of another cast p. 292

Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, L'Atelier d'Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 2007, no. 203, illustration of the plaster p. 405

Markus Brüderlin & Toni Stooss, eds., Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space, Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg & Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg, Salzburg, 2010-11, illustration of another cast fig. 9, p. 191

Catalogue Note

Alberto Giacometti’s extraordinary Buste de Diego, also known as Aménophis, belongs to a series of busts and heads that the artist made of his younger brother Diego between 1951 and 1957. "He's sat for me thousands of times," Giacometti said. "When's he's sitting there, I don't recognize him.  I like to get him to sit, so as to see what I see." Alberto Giacometti (reprinted in Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 140)  Conceived in 1954, the imposing presence, narrow face and parted lips of the present bust reveal a striking resemblance to another profoundly expressive work from the same year: Grande tête mince (Grande tête de Diego), widely considered Giacometti's most formally radical, visually engaging and emotionally impactful representation of the human figure. Imbued with all the magisterial power and ambition of this masterpiece, the present work occupies an extremely important place within the artist’s oeuvre.

By the 1950s, Giacometti had shifted his attention from the spindly, elongated figures of his post-war years and turned to figural sculptures that were more naturalistic in scale. Most of these works were heads and half-length busts, often executed from memory. For the most part, these sculptures were solid, designed without a base, and executed with the matiére pétrie, or kneaded method, which heightened the expressiveness of the figure. In the present work, the artist relied on this intensely hands-on process to create the indentations and the folds of Diego's polo-neck pullover and in the sharp bridge of his nose and furrowed brow. "Each of these nebulous creatures undergoing perpetual metamorphosis seems like Giacometti's very life transcribed in another language," Jean-Paul Sartre wrote when observing the artist at work on his sculptures in his studio (reprinted in Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 233).

Giacometti's choice of his brother Diego as the subject of this significant sculpture was based on his comfort and familiarity with his model. By the time Buste de Diego (Aménophis) was executed, Diego had been sitting for his brother for over forty years—ever since Alberto had asked him to sit for one of his very first sculpted portraits in 1914—and he had become much more than a reliable model. After the Second World War, Diego assumed the role of collaborator, creating the armatures for Alberto’s sculpture and supervising the casting of the bronzes; he was a crucial presence in his brother’s daily life, the man he knew best and his physiognomic similarity to Alberto furthermore invested these projects with an autobiographical narrative that was far from inadvertent. As Laurie Wilson notes in her writing on sculptures such as Buste de Diego (Aménophis), which she called Giacometti’s knife-blade portraits: “Though listed as portraits of Diego, they are not modeled after him […] The unusual profile of these works is characterized by a protruding chin and a shock of bush hair which is recognizably Alberto’s” (in Alberto Giacometti: Myth, Magic, and the Man, New Haven, 2005, p. 290).

When viewed frontally, the figure’s head in Buste de Diego (Aménophis) is reduced to a narrow oval in which one just manages to recognize the critical facial features. Tapering to a point, it cuts through space like a wedge and forms a scarcely distinct linear entity with the neck, ending in the funnel-like aperture of the polo-neck pullover. Seen from the side, however, the balance shifts; the head becomes flat, gaining profile, so that the mass and shape of the shoulders are now subjected to its dominant effect.

“These sculpted faces compel one to face them as if one were speaking to the person," Yves Bonnefoy has written, "meeting his eyes and thereby understanding better the compression, the narrowing that Giacometti imposed on the chin or the nose or the general shape of the skull. This was the period when Giacometti was most strongly conscious of the fact that the inside of the plaster or clay mass which he modeled was something inert, undifferentiated, nocturnal, that it betrays the life he sought to represent, and that he must therefore strive to eliminate this purely spatial dimension by constricting the material to fit the most prominent characteristics of the face.  This is exactly what he achieves with amazing vigor when, occasionally, he gave Diego's face a blade-like narrowness - drawing seems to have eliminated the plaster, the head has escaped from space - and demands therefore that the spectator stand in front of the sculpture as he did himself, disregarding the back and sides of his model and as bound to a face-to-face relationship as in the case of work at an easel.  As Giacometti once said, "There is no difference between painting and sculpture." Since 1945, he added, "I have been practicing them both indifferently, each helping me to do the other. In fact, both of them are drawing, and drawing has helped me to see” (Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, pp. 432-436).

This emphasis on the frontality of his figures was partly inspired by the art of ancient civilizations, as is suggested by the title of the present work. Aménophis or Amenhotep was the name of four pharaohs who ruled during the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt. The solidity of form displayed by Egyptian sculpture, as well as the innovative juxtaposition of frontal and side views in Egyptian painting, were certainly important sources of inspiration for Giacometti. Combined with the philosophical preoccupations of his own time, as well as with a highly personal approach to his subject, they resulted in some of the most original images of modernist sculpture.

The present  sculpture was cast in a numbered edition of eight during the artist's lifetime. In 1956, Jerome Stone purchased this bronze from Pierre Matisse, who described it as the artist's most important rendering of his brother Diego. 

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