Lot 39
  • 39

Alberto Giacometti

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD
5,192,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Alberto Giacometti
  • Tête de Diego
  • Inscribed with the signature Giacometti, with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur and stamped 6/6
  • Bronze


Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York

Acquired from the above on January 6, 1956


Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Neue Staatsgalerie, Sammlung Walter Bareiss, 1965


Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1965, illustration of another cast p. 52

Alberto Giacometti. A Retrospective Exhibition (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1974, no. 69, illustration of another cast p. 98

Mercedes Matter, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1987, illustration of another cast pp. 110-115

Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Beyeler, Basel, 1989, no. 24, illustration of another cast

Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1991, no. 423, illustration of another cast p. 441

Catalogue Note

Tête de Diego, also known as Buste de Diego, is one of Alberto Giacometti's first sculptural portraits of his younger brother, Diego, who was the primary model for the artist's numerous variations on the theme of head and bust sculptures throughout the 1950s and 1960s (see figs. 1 and 2).  Throughout their professional lives, the Giacometti brothers had an intensely close relationship. Diego devoted the major part of his own artistic career to assisting Alberto with his sculpture and supervising the casting of his bronzes. By the early fifties, Alberto had gained considerable critical recognition in Paris and had amassed a broad clientele, while Diego had only just begun to design the bronze furniture which would finally make him famous in his own right.  Well aware of his younger brother's talent, Alberto encouraged Diego to pursue his own career. Nevertheless, Alberto relied heavily upon his brother's expertise and recognized him as indispensable in the production of the numerous innovative sculptures that had secured Alberto a contract with the Galerie Maeght in 1950.  Speaking of this relationship, Annette Arm observed of her husband Alberto on June 1952, "He remains always his same anxious self, but fortunately, he has a brother who is more calm and understands him well'' (quoted in James Lord, Giacometti, A Biography, New York 1983, p. 329).

Speaking of the sculptures completed during this period, Yves Bonnefoy has written, "These sculpted faces compel one to face them as if one were speaking to the person, 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 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).

As in many of the painted portraits of his brother which Giacometti executed at the same time, Tête de Diego demonstrates the artist's fascination with the emotive power of the sitter's face. The artist executed these works with the matière pétrie, or kneaded method, that heightened the expressiveness of the figure.  As with the present work, Giacometti enhances the realism of these faces by precisely incising the features with a knife.  But his restless hands, constantly pinching, smoothing and remodeling the surface, are his primary tools.  Viewed from different vantage points, the present work can be seen as two distinct heads: the side profile is much more articulated and full-bodied than the elongated, nearly intangible frontal view.

Patrick Elliot has written about the memorable visual effect of Giacometti’s works such as Tête de Diego as follows: "In conversations, Giacometti observed enormous differences between a side view and a frontal view of an object, as if the two were completely separate things that could not possibly be rendered in a single sculpture. Giacometti normally represented figures as very frontal forms, and is reported to have said that: 'when a person appeals to us or fascinates us we don't walk all around him. What impresses us about his appearance requires a certain distance.'“ (Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; Kunsthalle, Vienna, 1996, p. 172).    


another view of the present work

Fig. 1, Diego and Alberto Giacometti. Photograph Ernst Scheidegger

Fig. 2, The many likenesses of Diego in the artist's studio.  The present work is three sculptures in from the left.