I n spite of seeing himself as a simple craftsman and as Alberto’s younger brother, Diego Giacometti surrounded himself throughout his life with a number of important patrons, artists and cherished friends. His close circle – which included, amongst many others, Pierre Matisse, Aime Maeght, Henri Samuel, Hubert de Givenchy, Romain Gary, Cecil Beaton and Jean-Luc Godard – was as exclusive as it was sophisticated in their appreciation for his craft. Diego was known to be particularly giving and generous with the friends whom he held dear, and he often welcomed them at his charming studio Rue Hyppolite Maindron in Paris’s Montparnasse neighborhood. Clients were generally close friends, and vice versa.
The present two tables from a distinguished European collection, offered in Important Design on 7 June, are a remarkable testament to the close relationship that united Diego with their owner – a friendship that spanned over a decade. “I kept colorful memories of my visits to rue Maindron and my car rides with Diego, of which these tables are a vivid reminder,” the original owner of the tables recalled. “I originally met him through mutual friends, and the two of us started a friendship. As time passed, I went several times to his studio and eventually acquired a total of three tables from him,” including the present two.
The ”Racine” guéridon in particular figures as one of Diego’s rarest and most original creations in bronze. The piece shows the sculptor’s prowess at skillfully adapting an organic motif into a strikingly abstract and perfectly balanced composition, which is simultaneously sculptural in its intent and highly functional. The “racines” in question that compose the precisely sculpted feet of the table are perhaps the most figurative aspect of this work – a discreet yet powerful nod to the vegetal realm that occupies such a central place throughout his oeuvre – together with the circular medallions flanking two of the three sides of the base. The table represents an otherwise extraordinarily abstract and modern piece of sculpture for Diego that distinguishes itself by its free-flowing and highly expressive sinuous lines, making it the work of a skilled bronze sculpture at the height of his artistic powers.
The “Berceau” table is one of his most iconic and accomplished furniture designs – one that celebrates his reverence for ancient sculpture and his artistic ties to Antiquity. Trained in the school of Art Deco decorators and sculptors, Diego was equally attached to the discipline of pre-World War II production standards as to the Classical artistic vocabulary deriving from ancient Greece, Egypt and Etruscan decorative arts. Here these ideals are achieved through slender and curved lines and the delicate inclusion of rings and columnar details that punctuate the center of the base with expressive energy. The “Berceau” table is yet another example of the sculptor’s lyrical sobriety of form and restrained elegance, figuring as one of his most timeless and universal designs, simultaneously hinting at past influences while resolutely singular and modern in execution.
“Diego was the prisoner of no one – neither of society or its conventions – he simply loved to work every day and he did so with the tranquil patience of a craftsman.”
Both tables are a splendid manifestation of Diego’s artistic nature: a sculptor who enjoyed working with his hands, molding plaster and using the precision of his fingers to create extraordinary works in bronze. “Diego was the prisoner of no one – neither of society or its conventions – he simply loved to work every day and he did so with the tranquil patience of a craftsman,” wrote Roger Montandon. Coined an “artisan poète” by Jean Leymarie, the pieces embody the “transparent and aerial” qualities that describe his most successful designs in bronze.
Though often described as introverted and reserved, Diego surrounded himself with an eclectic crowd that inspired and cultivated his boundless imagination. The eminent history and personal connection of these two tables to the artist and one of his dearest friends echo the oeuvre of Diego Giacometti itself – a sumptuous and timeless universe in bronze filled with the unique character and artistic prolificity of a true poet.