Lot 15
  • 15

Alberto Giacometti

35,000,000 - 50,000,000 USD
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  • Alberto Giacometti
  • Grande tĂȘte mince (Grande tĂȘte de Diego)
  • Inscribed with the signature Alberto Giacometti, with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur Paris and numbered 6/6
  • Bronze
  • Height: 25 1/2 in.
  • 65 cm


Galerie Maeght, Paris

Mr. & Mrs. Richard K. Weil, St. Louis (acquired from the above in 1957)

Acquired from the above in 1980


San Francisco, Museum of Fine Art, Giacometti, 1965


Jacques Dupin, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1962, illustration of another cast
illustrated pp. 268-69

Raoul-Jean Moulin, Giacometti: Sculptures, New York, 1964, no. 12, illustration of
another cast

Carlo Huber, Alberto Giacometti, Zurich, 1970, pp. 92 & 95, illustration of another cast

Reinhold Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, Lausanne, 1971, pp. 200-201, illustration of another cast

Reinhold Hohl, Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture, Painting, Drawing,
London, 1972, p. 169

Mercedes Matter, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1987, illustration of another cast pp. 97, 116-117

Alberto Giacometti: 1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 1988, no. 70, illustration of another cast p. 180

La Mamma a Stampa: Annette-gesehen von Giovanni und Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1990, no. 58, illustration of another cast

Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, a Biography of his Work, Paris, 1991, no. 415, illustration of another cast p. 432 & 433

Alberto Giacometti: Sculptures, peintures, dessins (exhibition catalogue), Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1991-92, no. 89, illustration of another cast p. 205

Angela Schneider (ed.), Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture, Paintings and
, New York, 1994, no. 89, illustration of another cast

Alberto Giacometti, Sculture, Dipinti, Disegni
(exhibition catalogue), Palazzo Reale, Milan, 1995, pp. 83, 192 and 193, no. 48, illustration of another cast on the front cover

Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966, (exhibition catalogue), Scottish National
Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 1996, no. 163, illustration of another cast in color pl. 57

Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Musées d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, 2010, illustration of another cast p. 182

Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space (exhibition catalogue), Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg & Museum der Moderne Monchsberg, Salzburg, 2010-2011, illustration of another cast p. 141


Excellent condition. The bronze is structurally sound and bears the original, rich, dark brown, matte patina.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Giacometti’s extraordinary Grande tête mince, also known as Grande tête 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, this sculpture is without question Giacometti's most formally radical, visually engaging and emotionally impactful.  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 similiarity to his brother invested these projects with an autobiographical narrative.  The powerful Grande tête mince is the most ambitious of a series of innovative sculptural portraits completed during this era and has since been considered one of the artist's greatest works.

"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) op. cit., 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 perpectual 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. 432-436).

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 (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 140). Like the hauntingly beautiful paintings of his brother which Giacometti executed at the same time, Grande tête mince demonstrates the artist's fascination with the emotive power of the sitter's face.  The present sculpture is the artist's most ambitious experiment in representation of this most expressive part of the body and results in a work of art that captures the multiple incarnations of the model in one single form.  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. This duality calls to mind the bust portrait of Nefertiti that had fascinated Giacometti throughout his career, and here he has achieved that similarly disconcerting perceptual effect. 

Patrick Elliot has written about the stunning visual effect of Grande tête mince, “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.’ The present sculpture is a remarkable instance of Giacometti's attempt to unite two very different views in a single work” (Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; Kunsthalle, Vienna, 1996, p. 172).

According to the Fondation Giacometti, the present bronze was cast in 1955 at the Susse foundry.  The first owner of this sculpture was Richard K. Weil (1902-1996), the St. Louis manufacturer and trustee of Washington University.  Weil and his wife Florence Steinberg Weil were avid collectors of modern art and major benefactor's of the University's Art Department and Gallery.  The couple acquired this bronze from Giacometti's European dealer Maeght in 1957 and sold it to the present owner in 1980.