Acquired from the above in 1981
Valerie J. Fletcher, Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966, Washington, D.C., 1988, illustration of another cast p. 201
Yves Bonnefoy, Giacometti, Paris, 1991, no. 377, illustration of another cast p. 401
Angela Schneider, Alberto Giacometti, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Munich, 1994, illustration of another cast pls. 108-114
Of the nine figures, number six is the tallest, with an elaborate coiffure and slightly parted lips. The form bears a sharp facial profile and a heavily textured surface that is rooted in the richly-modeled base. The series originates from a group of ten plasters which Giacometti had produced between January and May 1956 in preparation for the concurrent exhibitions of his work at the Venice Biennale and at the Kunsthalle in Bern in June of that year. According to recent scholarship by Véronique Wiesinger, six of the plasters were exhibited in Venice as "works in progress" and four were shown in Bern. Giacometti eventually selected nine of these plasters for casting into bronze in editions of six, plus one artist's proof of each figure. Regardless of where they were exhibited, each of the nine bronzes is called Femme de Venise.
Genet, who was Giacometti's favorite living author, provided a sensually-evocative descripion of these figures in the essay he published in 1957: "I can't stop touching the statues: I look away and my hand continues its discoveries of its own accord: neck, head, nape of neck, shoulders... The sensations flow to my fingertips. Each one is different, so that my hand traverses an extremely varied and vivid landscape... The backs of these women may be more human than their fronts. The nape of the neck, the shoulders, the small of the back, the buttocks seem to have been modeled more lovingly than any of the fronts. Seen from three-quarters, this oscillation from woman to goddess may be what is most disturbing: sometimes the emotion is unbearable... I cannot help returning to this race of gilded and sometimes painted sentries who standing erect, motionless, keep watch" (reprinted in R. Howard, ed., The Selected Writings of Jean Genet, Hopewell, 1993, pp. 323-324).
The Femmes de Venise are direct descendants of the elongated female figures which Giacometti had been working on in the 1940s and precursors of the larger female figure that he would execute in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Created at the median of this artistic development, the Femmes de Venise serve as the summation of Giacometti's findings in this particular subject. The variations among the nine Femmes, when considered as a group, demonstrate the metamorphoses of Giacometti's vision of the female form. From a technical standpoint, the differences in height and anatomy suggest that their numbering might not reflect the sequence in which Giacometti produced them. Valerie Fletcher has suggested that the nine Femmes were randomly renumbered when the artist selected them from among the original plasters for casting into bronze.
This group of sculptures was created as different states of the same female figure, modeled from a single mass of clay on a single armature. When Giacometti was satisfied with a particular version, his brother Diego made a plaster cast of it while Giacometti continued to rework the clay into a different figure. "Every time I work I am prepared to undo without the slightest hesitation the work done the day before, as each day I feel I am seeing further," Giacometti explained in an interview with André Parinaud in 1962. "Basically I now only work for the sensation I get during the process." ("Why am I a Sculptor?" reprinted in A. Gonzalez, Alberto Giacometti, Works, Writings, Interviews, Barcelona, 2006, p. 151).
All of the Femmes de Venise display the thin, gaunt proportions for which Giacometti is best known, and about which he commented to Sylvester in 1964: "At one time I wanted to hold on to the volume, and they became so tiny that they used to disappear. After that I wanted to hold on to a certain height, and they became narrow. But this was despite myself and even if I fought against it. And I did fight against it; I tried to make them broader. The more I wanted to make them broader, the narrower they got. But the real explanation is something I don't know, still don't know. I could only know it through the work that I am going to do" (D. Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, London and New York, 1997, p. 6).
With its disproportionately small head and large feet accentuated by a sloping pedestal, the overall effect of this tall, slender figure is what Lord termed an "ascending vitality" (J. Lord, op. cit.,p. 356). Reflecting on the impression which the Femmes de Venise make upon the viewer, Lord concludes: "When a spectator's attention is fixed upon the head of one of these figures, the lower part of her body would lack verisimilitude were it not planted firmly upon those enormous feet, because even without looking directly at them, one is aware of their mass... The eye is obliged to move up and down, while one's perception of the sculpture as a whole image becomes an instinctual act, spontaneously responding to the force that drove the sculptor's fingers. Comparable to the force of gravity, it kept those massive feet so solidly set on the pedestal that they affirmed the physicality of the figure as the one aspect of his creativity which the artist could absolutely count on, all the rest being subject to the unreliability of the mind's eye" (ibid., pp. 356-57).
According to Mary Lisa Palmer, Giacometti would usually send the even-numbered bronzes from the edition, including the present work, to Galerie Maeght in Paris and the odd-numbered casts to Pierre Matisse in New York. Other casts of Femme de Venise VI are in the collections of Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas; Museo Nazionale d'arte moderna in Rome, and the Fondation Maeght, Paris.
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