Lot 40
  • 40

Giacomo Balla

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Giacomo Balla
  • Folla + Paesaggio (Crowd + Landscape)
  • Signed Balla, inscribed Futurista and dated 1915 (lower center)
  • Collage of painted papers and tissue paper laid down on canvas, mounted on masonite 
  • 60 by 26 1/4 in.
  • 152.5 by 66.7 cm


Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Rome (a gift of the artist in 1915)

Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, Rome (by descent from the above 1944-1958)

Mr. & Mrs. Larry Lewis Winston, Birmingham (acquired in 1962)

Lydia Winston Malbin, New York (acquired by descent from the above and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 16, 1990, lot 32)

Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman


New York, Museum of Modern Art; Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts & Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Futurismus, 1961-62, no. 17, illustrated in the catalogue

Detroit Institute of Arts & New York, Museum of Modern Art, Selections from the Collections of the Friends of Modern Art, 1969, no. 23

New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Futurism, 1973-74, no. 20, illustrated in the catalogue p. 57

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Aspects of Twentieth-Century Art: European Painting and Sculpture, 1978, no. 56, illustrated in the catalogue

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Futurismus and the International Avant Garde, 1980-81, no. 13, illustrated in the catalogue

New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, F.T. Marinetti and Futurism, 1983, no. 7, illustrated in the catalogue


Maria Drudi Gambillo & Teresa Fiori, eds., Archivi del futurismo, vol. II, Rome, 1962, no. 230, illustrated p. 117

Herta Wescher, Collage, New York, 1968, illustrated pl. 52

David Schaff, "Three Origins of Modernism: Expressionism, Futurism and the Russian Avant Garde" in Art International, New York, August-September 1981, p. 34

Gene Baro, "A Lifelong Education of the Senses" in Living with Art, New York, 1988, illustrated p. 140

Anne Coffin Hanson, ed., The Futurist Imagination: Word + Image in Italian Futurist Painting, Drawing, Collage and Free-Word Poetry, New Haven, 1983, illustrated p. 88

Giacomo Balla, Coloratissimo e luminosissimo (exhibition catalogue), Galleria d'Arte Cinquantasei Bologna, 2013, no. 29, illustrated p. 167 (titled Dimostrazione interventista)


Please contact the Impressionist and Modern Art Department at (212) 606-7360 for the condition report for this lot.
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

During the first ten months of World War I, while Italy remained neutral (despite being a member of the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary), the Futurists and other militant groups sought to foster pro-war sentiment and to urge Italy to enter on the side of France and England. Giacomo Balla participated in many of the interventionist demonstrations held in Rome, and in the spring of 1915 created a series of works that gave visible form to the patriotic songs and shouts of the people gathered in the city’s piazzas. Elica Balla, the artist’s daughter, describes this period in her memoir: “The interventionist demonstrations followed one another, becoming ever more violent, and Balla, together with the futurists, participated actively, while at the same time observing and studying in order to create works the would reflect the dramatic and lively moment of reawakening.”[i] The collage Crowd + Landscape is a nearly abstract version of this subject, in which Balla rendered the essential elements of the crowd’s pro-war appeal to the King in symbolic form.

Although the works in this series are marked by a strong tendency toward abstraction, many of them also take a specific rally as a point of departure. Patriotic Song, for example, sought to convey the fervor and enthusiasm of an interventionist demonstration that occurred on April 21, 1915, a holiday celebrating the founding of Rome, in the Piazza Siena near Balla’s home. Rising from the elongated oval shape of the piazza, cresting waves in black and lavender, and an emerging vortex in vibrant blue, figure forth the turbulence and surging unity of the crowd. The patriotic song, which Elica Balla tells us was led by a group of school children, gives rise to three towers standing erect and open against the sky, in the red, white and green of the Italian flag.[ii] This three-dimensional realization of the song is answered by a ray of golden-orange light, which strikes the scene from the upper right (in an allusion to a heavenly benediction), casting orange reflections on two billowing clouds. Elica Balla’s account of this work emphasizes her father’s lyrical interpretation of the crowd’s heightened state of mind, as well as his quasi-scientific treatment of its dense, mobile, yet centered mass: “What emotion animates its lines!!! The Futurist interpretation of this subject is almost scientific because the forms of movement that constitute the compact mass of the crowd, the green landscape, and the sky, coalesce to form a center of force, a vortex that releases energy: the song!!!”[iii] Although Balla figures the patriotic crowd in forms that evoke dynamic forces of nature (surging waves, vortices, a ray of light, animated clouds), he also endows some of these forms with symbolic color. The vortex-crowd is blue because Balla associated this color with spirituality and optimism. He designed the frame, painted in the colors of the flag, so that, at right and left, it echoes and extends the curving elements within the composition. In another painting in this series, titled Interventionist Demonstration in the Piazza del Quirinale of 1915, Balla again imagined the crowd as an oceanic form of swirling spirals that gives rise to surging wave-like volumes in red, white and green; these volumes culminate in three larger cresting forms in the same colors, embodying the pro-war shouts of the crowd addressed to the King on his balcony at the Quirinale palace. The King is said to have responded with the slogan “Viva l’Italia!” Balla signified his presence on the balcony of the Quirinale palace with the insignia of the House of Savoy, a knotted rope, placed near the apex of the painting.

Crowd + Landscape is one of a group of works in this series that Balla set within the countryside and executed with a variety of cut and pasted papers. Its composition is closely related to a collage of 1915 in the Calmarini Collection, although here it is given a narrow vertical format so that it could hang over the wardrobe mirror in F.T. Marinetti’s bedroom (seeing his own reflection there had begun to disturb him during a convalescence).[iv] In this collage, the fervor of the multitude generates a reciprocal response from the natural environment, giving rise to wave-like shapes, triangular shards, and projecting wedges. As in Patriotic Song, a pyramidal ray, here cut out of tan paper, traverses the field on a vertical axis to strike the curving ground at a point near the artist’s signature. The varied textures and colors of the layered papers activate the surface, providing a visual analogue of an energized field; Balla further complicated their interpenetrating shapes with drawn and shaded arcs in watercolor, oil, and crayon (or charcoal), mingling a bit of blue and aqua into these soaring vectors that emanate from the lower edge of the landscape with its curving white road. Balla placed the knot of the House of Savoy across the center of Crowd + Landscape, over two intersecting forked shapes, cut out of red and white papers. These antagonistic forces resemble those in the painting Insidie di Guerra (Dangers of War), usually dated 1915, but which Elica Balla associates with the defeat at Carporetto in 1917.[v] Here forked protagonists wage a violent war of accusations above a sea of neutral, grey roiling forms. But whereas Balla employed only dark hues in that painting, to indicate its somber, pessimistic tone, he gave Crowd + Landscape a brighter, more optimistic range of colors. And he superimposed the knotted rope, representing the unified will of Italy, upon the battling forces beneath it. Traces of green and red-orange pigment on the cream-colored, cut paper of the knot enhance its patriotic symbolism, a message surely understood by the collage’s first owner, Marinetti himself.


[i] Elica Balla, Con Balla,1 (Milan: Multhipla, 1984), 351: “Le dimonstrazioni interventiste si susseguivano sempre più violente e Balla, insieme ai futuristi, vi prendeva viva parte tuttavia osservando e studiando per creare opera che rispecchiassero il momento dramatico e vivo di risveglio.”

[ii] Elica Balla, 382.

[iii] Elica Balla, 382: “Quale emozione ora vivifica le sue linee!!! L’interpretazione futurista di questo soggetto è quasi scientifica poiché le forme di movimento, che costituiscono la massa compatta della folla, il verde paesaggio, il cielo concorrono a formare un centro di forza, un vortice che sprigiona energia: il canto!!!”

[iv] Marianne Martin suggested to Anne Coffin Hanson that if this work was executed at the time of Marinetti’s wartime convalescence in 1917-18, it must date to this later period. See Anne Coffin Hanson, ed., The Futurist Imagination: Word + Image in Italian Futurist Painting, Drawing, Collage and Free-Word Poetry (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983), 79.

[v] Elica Balla, 440. Elsewhere, however, she describes Insidie di Guerra as offering “the sensation of fear of the unknown that provokes the war; deeply tragic but without vivid contrasts: a grey rapacious form lies over the tumult.” In fact the forked elements are green and red, Balla having banished luminous white. See Elica Balla, 382-83.


Sotheby's would like to thank Dr. Christine Poggi of the University of Pennsylvania for writing the catalogue essay for the present lot.