Lot 6
  • 6

Alberto Giacometti

5,000,000 - 7,000,000 USD
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  • Alberto Giacometti
  • Diego sur stèle II
  • Signed Alberto Giacometti, inscribed with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur, Paris and numbered 3/6
  • Painted bronze 
  • Height: 65 3/8 in.
  • 165.7 cm


Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist in 1959 and until at least 1962)

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, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum & Art Institute of Chicago, Alberto Giacometti, A Retrospective Exhibition, 1974, no. 89, illustrated in the catalogue (no. 47 in Chicago; incorrectly catalogued as version III)

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)


Alberto Giacometti: Skulpturen - Gemalde - Zeichnungen - Graphik (exhibition catalogue), Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, 1987, illustration of another cast p. 279

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


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

Giacometti's totemic portrait of his brother Diego, elevated upon a pedestal, is among the artist's most symbolically-loaded works.  The figure here is exalted like a diety or great nobleman, not unlike examples from Greco-Roman antiquity. The stele, which is the Greek word for pillar, is used to emphasize the ceremonial importance of the figure, alluding to antiquity when noble men were elevated among their peers to connote their superiority or importance.  In the artist's rendering of the motif, the stele had a more philosophical significance.  Giacometti was fascinated by the theme of the human condition, and the fragility and remoteness of these works emphasize his existentialist concerns. "To the slender and fragile figures he stands on bases or on pillars which, by contrast, are imposing, Giacometti gives a double metaphysical value of our mortal condition. Here, the pillar isn't used to make the place above sculpture more monumental, but it is to stress its frailty and to suggest the enormous space surrounding it" (Giacometti [exhibition catalogue], Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1991-92, p. 308).

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).