Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale


Giacomo Balla
1871 - 1958
signed Balla Futurista, titled Rumoristica plastica BALTRR and dated 1914 (lower left)
brush and ink, collage and mixed-media on paper laid down on linen
116 by 98 cm., 45 3/4 by 38 1/2 in.
Executed in 1914.
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Eredi Balla (daughter of the artist)
Galerie Tarica, Paris (acquired from the above)
Private Collection, Geneva (acquired from the above; sale: Sotheby's, New York, November 6, 2013, lot 12)
A. Alfred Taubman Collection (purchased at the above sale)


Turin, Galleria Civica Arte Moderna, Giacomo Balla, 1963, no. 265, illustrated in the catalogue
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Giacomo Balla, 1971-72, no. 45, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Finch College Museum & Instituto Italiano di Cultura, Italian Visual Poetry, 1912-1972, 1973, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1917-18)
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Boccioni e il suo tempo, 1973-74, no. 309
Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Futurismus 1909-1917, 1974, no. 12
Turin, Galeria Civica d'Arte Moderna & Mole Antonelliana, Ricostruzione futurista dell'universo, 1980, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue
Modena, Galleria Fonte d'Abisso, Balla, 1982, no. 407, illustrated in the catalogue
Marseille, Centre de la Vieille Clarité, Poesure et peintrie, 1993, n.n., illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Magie der Zahl, 1997, no. 23, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Genova, Palazzo Ducale & Milan, Fondazione Mazzotta, Futurismo, I Grandi Temi, 1909-1944, 1997-98, no. 3/17, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, Futurisme, 1998, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Hannover, Sprengelmuseum, Der Larm Der Strasse, 2001, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Futurismo, 2001, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Vienna, Kunstforum, Futurismo, Radikale Avant Garde, 2003, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Barcelona, Museu d'art contemporani, Arte y utopia, la accion restringada, 2004-05, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Toronto, Musée Royale de l'Ontario; Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts & Trento, Museo di Arte Moderna, Il Modo Italiano, 2006-07, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Balla, la modernità futurista, 2008, illustrated in the catalogue


Maria Drudi Gambillo & Teresa Fiori, Archivi del Futurismo, vol. II, Rome, 1962, no. 81, illustrated p. 85
Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Futur Balla, Rome, 1970, no. 116 (titled Il linguaggio)
Luciano Caruso & Stelio M. Martini, Tavole parolibere futuriste, Naples, 1974, illustrated p. 57
Angelo Bozzolla & Caroline Tisdall, Futurism, London, 1977
Enrico Crispolti, Il Futurismo e Roma, Rome, 1978
Giovanni Lista, Le Livre Futuriste, de la liberation du mot au poeme tactile, Modena, 1984, no. 93, illustrated p. 49
Giovanni Lista, Futurism, Paris, 2002, illustrated in colour p. 7
Christine Poggi, In Defiance of Painting: Cubism, Futurism and the Invention of Collage, New Haven, 1993, no. 126, illustrated in colour p. 217

Catalogue Note

Balla created the present work in 1914, during the high point of Futurist experimentation with free-word poetry, collage and theatrical performance. Rumoristica plastica BALTRR reveals its pictorial ambitions by taking on the large scale of mural painting. This work is meant to be viewed on a wall, rather than held in the hand and read. Executed out of variously coloured inks, pasted papers, and watercolour, it integrates words and letters evoking onomatopoeic sounds into a unified visual structure. Rumoristica plastica BALTRR can also be aligned with the medium of painting because it eschews mechanically printed texts for hand-drawn letters and the tactile qualities of cut and pasted papers. Yet the work is also diagrammatic, including grey paper swirls and vectors that trace lines of movement, several wedges of tan paper at the top that enhance the flow of energy from left to right, and a series of orange paper circles whose trajectory we are directed to follow (the words “seguire circoli” appears at the lower centre).

Balla’s collage poem mobilizes these varied elements to tell the story of his attempt to visit the Czech artist Rougena Zatkova, one of his students. Finding that the keys didn’t open the door, he entered through a window on an upper floor, descended the inner stairway, and opened the door with the keys from the inside. The orange dots indicate the artist’s path, which leads him up the stairs signified by the sounds of his creaking shoes: taaa, teeech, tieeech, tech, tach, tech, tich… The pattern then grows more dynamic and illogical; a question mark rises just before the short vertical stripe of grey paper adjacent to the central line, representing the impediment of the locked door. Is it an “O” or a zero that accompanies this question mark? The artist then reverses his steps and catapults himself into the air like a ball (the word BALLUALTO at the far left evokes both “Balla” and “Ball;” ALTO signifies “high”); the arrow points to a curved row of orange circles marking the site of his passage through the upper window. Landing with the sound PLANTLAN, he then descends—tech.., tich, tich…tech, tech…tlech, plep plip, plop, plap… to the level of the door. Shiny metallic blue and vermilion vectors signify the keys opening the door from the inside; the word APERTO (OPEN), (with the letters PERTO contained with the profile of an acute A), points to the keyhole where the metallic sound of the turning keys emerges as CRZT. The composition as a whole enacts the story it tells: climbing steps occurs by means of circles that get progressively smaller along with the letters evoking creaking sounds; the dynamic flow of vaulting into the air figures through rapidly changing curves and lines of flight; and the descent back to the ground level becomes visible through the accelerated rhythm of steps and a pattern of sounds on smaller stairs (which are thus represented as farther away). In this pictorial free-word poem, noisy forms (rumoristica plastica) convey the essence of a simple action, realising its multiple sensations and intersecting narrative arcs through the visual figuration of movement and sound. 

Sotheby’s would like to thank Christine Poggi, Professor of Modern and
Contemporary art at the University of Pennsylvania, for writing the entry for the
present work.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale