Lot 16
  • 16

Domenico Gnoli

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Domenico Gnoli
  • Waist line
  • signed, titled, dated 1969 and variously inscribed on the reverse
  • acrylic and sand on canvas in artist's frame
  • 97.5 by 130.5cm.; 38 3/8 by 51 3/8 in.


Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1970


New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, D. Gnoli 1969, 1969, n.p., no. 16, (text)

Dusseldorf, Galerie Schmela, Domenico Gnoli, 1970

Darmstadt, Kunsthalle; Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; Paris, Centre National d’Art Contemporain; and Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Domenico Gnoli, 1973-74, p. 60, illustrated

Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie, Domenico Gnoli – Peintures, Dessins, Gravures et Sculptures, 1996


Volker Kahmen, Erotik in der Kunst: Aspekte zur Kunst der Gegenwart, Tübingen 1971, no. 311, illustrated

Luigi Carluccio, Domenico Gnoli, New York 1975, p. 140, illustrated

Vittorio Sgarbi, Domenico Gnoli, Milan 1983, p. 153, no. 187, illustrated

Yannick Vu, Domenico Gnoli a Mallorca / in Majorca 1963-1970, Palma 2006, p. 209, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly warmer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Close inspection reveals some wear in places along the edges and corners of the artist's frame. There is some yellowing to the varnish along the vertical and upper edges. The canvas is slightly slack. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

One of forty-three canvases Domenico Gnoli painted in the serene setting of S'Estaca, Mallorca, between 1968 and 1969, Waist line is a product of the artist's most fervent and inspired periods of production. Creating almost a third of his entire late paintings (of the period between 1963 and 1969) in the last months of his life, these works form the apex of his career. Representing nostalgic fragments of our everyday lives, they were created for the last exhibition of Gnoli’s lifetime at the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York. A direct amplification of the generic and mundane trouser, Waist lineexemplifies Gnoli’s unique magnifications of the textures and fashions of the 1960s bourgeoisie into a transfixing array of patterns and details to engender a revolutionary aesthetic redefinition of the figurative tradition. Following the renowned show at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1969, the work was exhibited in the internationally acclaimed Galerie Schmela, as well as one of the artist’s key retrospectives at the Kunsthalle, Darmstadt, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam and the Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Paris: an impressive exhibition history that attests to the importance of this work within Gnoli's exceptional artistic practice.

An abstracted surface of monotone grey hues variegated by faint vertical lines that guide the composition, the consecutive configuration of the work is interrupted only by a conventional grey button. This object of visual spartanism and banality transfixes the viewer's gaze, as the proximity of the undulating rhythm of the ribbed herringbone pattern creates an oscillating visual effect. As a result of the horizontal waistband that divides the composition and the starkly flattened perspective, the sense of distance is collapsed and the work succeeds in dwarfing its audience. Exposing the still life aspect of a buttonhole, a shirt collar or the tip of a shoe, Gnoli employs an arbitrary focus to shift our perception of the mundane, documenting not just that which is overlooked but capturing unique facets of the 1960s quotidian from a magnified perspective. Through a metamorphosis of the ordinary into an abstract synergy of texture and pattern Gnoli instils the everyday with something ineffably new and unique.

The son of an art historian, Gnoli's life as an artist was preordained: “I was born knowing that I would be a painter; because my father; an art critic, always presented painting as the only acceptable thing. He pointed me towards classical Italian painting, against which I rebelled soon enough. However I never lost a Renaissance sense of taste and craft” (Domenico Gnoli quoted in: Yannick Vu, Domenico Gnoli a Mallorca / in Majorca 1963-1970, Palma 2006, p. 32). With his own assertion of his Italian heritage in mind and his unique ability to harmonise an analytical description of details with a dream-like reality, Gnoli’s work was often linked to the classical Italian tradition of painting extending from the Quattrocento as far Morandi, De Chirico and Carrà. The Surrealist tactic of unveiling a new image of the world is reflected in his illusionary magnifications, whilst at the same time his extreme amplifications negate any pre-existing objectivity moving ever closer to abstraction. The linear composition of Waist line brings to mind the geometric abstractions of Frank Stella or the vertiginous visual effects of works by Op artist Bridget Riley; a connection that becomes all the more relevant when considering the artist's career defining exhibitions in New York in the 1950s and his desire to create something exceptional for his solo exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery later that year.

However, despite these classical and modern connotations his works remained utterly unique. The profound attention to detail and distinct perception of reality that has defined Gnoli’s practice stood in complete contrast to the general trends towards an art that rejected any element of figuration and promoted an unrestrained expression. As pointed out by Achille Bonito Oliva: “For Gnoli the figure is the focal point of art, and holds the central position of language, as bearer of the intention and desire of the power of the imaginary” (Achille Bonito Oliva quoted in: ibid, p. 16). He found his enlarged and abstracted details of everyday life to be the ideal vehicle to explore and reinvigorate figurative traditions, staying true to his artistic heritage yet establishing an entirely new creative expression. His corpus is thus imbued with an air of timelessness, surpassing conventional limitations of era or decade to project a singular beauty of figure, form and detail.