- Alberto Giacometti
- Diego sur stèle II
- Signed Alberto Giacometti, inscribed with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur, Paris and numbered 3/6
- Painted bronze
Frances Aronson Gallery, Atlanta (acquired from the above)
The Milton D. Ratner Family Collection, Fort Lee (acquired from the above and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 16, 1984, lot 324)
Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Giacometti Sculpture, 1993 (incorrectly catalogued as version III)
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Alberto Giacometti Retrospective, 1994 (incorrectly catalogued as version III)
Herbert & Mercedes Matter, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1987, illustration of another cast p. 133
Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, p. 438, no. 361, illustration of another cast in color p. 386
Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthalle, Vienna & Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 1996, illustration of another cast p. 178
L'Atelier d'Alberto Giacometti, Collection de la Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2007-08, illustration of the plaster in color p. 365
The present bronze is the second of three versions of the head of Diego on an elongated base, and it is perhaps the most radically modeled of the series. For the first version of this theme, Giacometti presents a more naturalistic interpretation of the man, rounding the shoulders and head. For the second version, the torso takes on the shape of a diamond, while the face itself is enlarged and sharpened, dominating the composition. The third version appears to be an amalgamation of the first and second, incorporating more naturalistic features on an enlarged torso. Of the three, the second version, including the present work and the cast that currently resides in the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Center in Washington, D.C., presents the artist's most expressive and stylized interpretation of the figure.
Stèle II portrays Diego in sharp relief, and his striking profile is accentuated by the elevation of the form to eye-level. "In these sculptures I tried to make an eye," the artist explained to Thomas B. Hess in 1958. "I raised the head on a base until the eye is at eye-level. You see an eye... This is very important... just where the eye hits the sculpture" (quoted in T. B. Hess, "Giacometti: The Uses of Adversity," Art News, vol. 57, no. 3, May 1958, pp. 34-35 & 67).
The present bronze is one of the rare casts which Giacometti enhanced with green paint in order to accentuate the texture of the metal. Throughout his career, Giacometti occasionally painted his sculptures, in order to enhance their individuality and expressiveness. In his early period, the artist painted some of his plasters, and from the 1950s he started applying paint to bronzes as well. Alberto portrayed his brother Diego in numerous paintings and sculptures, and the present work is a fascinating composite of these two mediums, bringing together the rich treatment of the bronze surface and the liveliness of oil paint. 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" (quoted in Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, p. 436).
In an interview with David Sylvester, Giacometti discussed his painted sculptures: "Not long after I'd begun to do sculpture I did paint a few, but then I destroyed them all. I repeated this at times. In 1950 I painted a whole series of sculptures. But as you paint them you see what's wrong with the form. And there's no point in painting something you don't believe in. [...] I can't waste time fooling myself that I've achieved something by painting it if there's nothing underneath. So I have to sacrifice the painting and try and do the form. In the same way as I have to sacrifice the whole figure to try and do the head" (quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, London, 1994, p. 218).