Lot 19
  • 19

Alberto Giacometti

10,000,000 - 15,000,000 USD
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  • Alberto Giacometti
  • Buste de Diego
  • Inscribed with the signature Alberto Giacometti, numbered 1/6 and with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur Paris
  • Bronze
  • Height: 24 3/4 in.
  • 62.9 cm


Acquired in 1964


Herbert Matter, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1987, illustrations of another cast in color pp. 128-29

Alberto Giacometti1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., & San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, 1988, illustration of another cast p. 203

Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, A Biography of his Work, Paris, 1991, no. 417, illustration of another cast in color p. 435

Alberto GiacomettiLa collezione di un amatore, Sculture, dipinti, disegni, grafica (exhibition catalogue), Galleria Pieter Coray, Lugano, illustration of another cast in color p. 28

Alberto Giacometti1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthalle Vienna & Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 1996, illustration of another cast in color pl. 63 and p. 177

Catalogue Note

Giacometti’s extraordinary Buste de Diego is a robust personification of the Existentialist movement during the heated years of the Cold War. Of all his representations of the human figure, the present work is without question one of Giacometti's most formally radical and visually engaging sculptures. This imposing figure, parting his lips as if he is about to speak, embodies the anticipation of a moment yet to be realized. The model for this profoundly expressive sculpture was the artist's younger brother Diego, who inspired numerous variations on the theme of head and bust sculptures of the 1950s and whose physiognomic similarity to his brother invested these projects with an autobiographical narrative. 

"To me," Giacometti once stated, "sculpture is not an object of beauty but a way for me to try to understand a bit better what I see in a given head, to understand a bit better what appeals to me about it and what I admire in it" (reprinted in Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space (exhibition catalogue), Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg & Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg, Salzburg, 2010-11, p. 73). By the 1950s, Giacometti shifted his attention from the spindly, elongated figures of his post-war years, like Homme qui chavire, and turned to figural sculptures that were more naturalistic in scale.  Most of these works were heads and half-length busts, completed between 1951 and 1957 and 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, that heightened the expressiveness of the figure. The artist relied on an intensely hands-on process for this sculpture to create the indentations and the folds of Diego's jacket and in the sharp bridge of his nose.  "Each of these nebulous 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 ibid. 233).

“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” (Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, pp. 432-36).

Giacometti's choice of his brother Diego as the subject of this significant sculpture was based on his comfortability and familiarity with his model. "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" (reprinted in Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space, ibid, p. 140). Like the hauntingly beautiful paintings of his brother which Giacometti executed at the same time, Buste de Diego demonstrates the artist's fascination with the emotive power of the sitter's face.

Viewed from different vantage points, the present sculpture can be seen as two distinct heads: the side profile is much more articulated and full-bodied than the elongated, nearly intangible frontal view. According to the archives of the Comité Giacometti, the present work is from an edition of six bronzes that were made at the Susse Foundry between 1957 and 1958. Two bronzes, including the present work and the version which resides at The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. received the number 1/6. Other bronzes from the edition are at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (5/6) and the Yale University Art Gallery (2/6). The original plaster for the present work is at the Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung in Zurich.