Lot 35
  • 35

Giacomo Balla

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Giacomo Balla
  • Disgregazione x velocità, penetrazione dinamiche d'automobile
  • Signed BALLA FUTURISTA, dated 1912 and inscribed ROMA PER PELLICCIA- (lower left)
  • Gouache, wash and brush and ink on paper laid down on card
  • 26 5/8 by 37 7/8 in.
  • 67.6 by 96.2 cm


(possibly) Arrigo Pelliccia, Rome (gift from the artist in the late 1930s)

Vittorio Frascione, Florence (acquired by circa 1940)

Private collection, New York (acquired by circa 1950)

Acquired from the above in 2008


Rome, Galleria Futurista, Esposizione di Pittura Futurista: Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo, Balla, Severini, Soffici, 1914, no. 8 (titled Disgregazione x velocità)

London, The Doré Galleries, Exhibition of the Work of the Italian Futurist Painters and Sculptors, 1914, no. 37 (titled Dynamism of Dispersion)

San Francisco, The Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Italian Futurists, 1915, no. 1131 (titled Dynamism of Dispersion)


Umberto Boccioni, Pittura Scultura Futuriste (Dinamismo Plastico), Milan, 1914, illustrated prior to dedication, n.p. (titled Penetrazioni dinamiche d'automobile)

Marianne Martin, Futurist Art and Theory, 1909-1915, New York, 1968, no. 182 (titled Penetrazioni dinamiche d'automobile)

Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Il taccuino n. 5, 1912/1914. Analisi e sintesi in un taccuino di Balla (exhibition catalogue), Galleria Martano, Turin, 1974, no. 16 (titled Penetrazioni dinamiche d'automobile)

Giorgio De Marchis, Giacomo Balla, l'aura futurista, Turin, 1977, no. 41 (titled Penetrazioni dinamiche d'automobile)

Giovanni Lista, Balla, Modena, 1982, pp. 199 & 508; illustrated prior to dedication p. 199 (titled Dinamismo d'automobile or Penetrazioni dinamiche d'automobile)

Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Balla: The Futurist (exhibition catalogue), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 1987, p. 74 (illustration of a page from Boccioni's 1914 publication)

Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Balla: The Futurist, New York, 1988, p. 76 (illustration of a page from Boccioni's 1914 publication)

Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Futur-Balla: la vita e le opere, Milan, 1990, p. 93 (illustration of a page from Boccioni's 1914 publication)

Paolo Baldacci & Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Giacomo Balla: Abstract Futurism (exhibition catalogue), Paolo Baldacci Gallery, New York, 1995, p. 23 (illustration of a page from Boccioni's 1914 publication)

Paolo Baldacci, "A propos du pavillon futuriste italien à la Panama Pacific International Exposition de San Francisco" in LIGEIA--Dossier sur l'art, XX année, N. 77-78-79-80, July-December 2007, illustrated p. 8

Balla, la modernità futurista (exhibition catalogue), Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2008, illustrated pp. 283 & 294

Fabio Benzi, Il Futurismo, Milan, 2008, p. 163 (illustrated in situ at the 1915 San Francisco Panama Pacific International)

Didier Ottinger, ed., Futurism, (exhibition catalogue), Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome & Tate Modern, London, 2008-09, p. 341 (illustrated in situ at the 1915 San Francisco Panama Pacific International)

Catalogue Note

A thundering influx of white, gray and black, Balla’s dynamic Disgregazione x velocità, penetrazione dinamiche d'automobile exemplifies Futurism at its most thrilling. “Universal dynamism must be rendered in painting as a dynamic sensation,” was one of the principles of the Futurist Manifesto, and indeed, the present picture offers us the sensation of a speeding car as it appears to dematerialize while accelerating through space. “Indeed, all things move, all things run, all things are readily changing,” wrote Umberto Boccioni in the group’s Technical Manifesto in 1910. “A profile is never motionless before our eyes, but it constantly appears and disappears. On account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations in their mad career.” (U. Boccioni, Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto, p. 150).

Futurist painting burst into the consciousness of the international art world with the opening of the exhibition Les Peintres futuristes italiens at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris in February 1912, and the following month with a group exhibition at Herwarth Walden’s Galerie der Sturm in Berlin. The present work, which dates from the movement’s crescendo in 1913, is one of the greatest examples of their aesthetic principles. Disgregazione x velocità, penetrazione dinamiche d'automobile belongs to a seminal group of works that Balla executed in 1913-14 on the theme of cars in movement, exploring the ultimate concepts of Futurism: dynamism, speed and light. The present work is one of the most spectacular from this series, and was part of a fire-storm series of exhibitions throughout Italy in 1914. The present painting was included in the Rome venue of this multi-city Futurist extravaganza and was, in short order, exhibited in London in 1914 and San Francisco in 1915 respectively. 

Balla was a key signatory of the Futurist Manifesto, an aesthetic treatise that was spearheaded by the writer Marinetti in 1909 and adapted for the visual arts by Boccioni in 1910. It was around this time that Balla became fascinated with the automobile as an emblem of modern times, and produced several studies of cars, some stationary and some in movement. It was not until he saw the photodynamics by the Bragaglia brothers in 1912 that his research on this theme entered into a new phase, resulting in a radical change of style, and ultimately in a number of works that are now regarded as icons of Futurist art. 

In developing his own version of Divisionism and abstraction, Balla was initially influenced by Etienne-Jules Marey’s Chronophotography, a technique of capturing sequences of movement within a single frame. The main effect that Chronophotography had on painting and drawing was the dematerialization of form, breaking up the image in a way that enables the artist to translate the visual effect of movement into a pictorial language. Balla’s experimentations with this new technique resulted in the masterpiece Bambina che corre sul balcone of 1912 (G. Lista, ibid., no. 290), in which the form of the girl is multiplied to record her progression in time and space. In portraying different sequences within a single picture frame, the artist destroys the naturalist connotation of space and the corporeality of matter.  In his experimentation along this road, and moving increasingly towards abstraction, Balla ultimately arrived at his concept of linea di velocità or line of speed the basic formal element in his dynamic abstractions of movement.

Balla believed that the frenetic pace of modern life and the rapid advancements of new technology were perfectly encapsulated in the image of a speeding automobile. According to his daughters’ testimony, the artist would go out and install himself on the corner of Via Veneto in Rome, studying the passing of motor cars. Writing about this series of works, Giovanni Lista commented: “For whole afternoons Balla filled the pages of his notebooks, annotating the complex effect which the fast passing of motor cars produces: the shadows in movement; the fleeting reflection of the colors in the shop windows; the forms of propagation of the noise; the alterations which seem to be produced in the structure itself of the space crossed by a body in movement. It is from these studies that the masterpieces of abstract art derive, which the artist realised transposing the theme of motor cars in motion” (G. Lista, op. cit., p. 49).

The present work reflects Balla’s transition from his kinetic, analytical phase, towards the concept of the line of speed, in which he almost abandoned any kind of figurative representation of the moving object, and reduced light and speed to simple graphic symbols. In the present work the image of the automobile is highly stylized, and the sensation of energy and movement is created by the whirling lines epitomizing its dizzying speed as well as the bright flashes of light reflected on its surface as the car passes. Balla’s focus has shifted from the moving object to the essence of movement itself, and the dynamic sensation of speed has become an autonomous entity and the main subject of the work. With its vortex of pure, abstract lines, Disgregazione x velocità, penetrazione dinamiche d'automobile presents the high point of Balla’s art, and demonstrates the virtuosity with which he achieved the Futurist ideal.

Paolo Baldacci & Flavio Fergnzi have suggested that the first owner of Disgregazione x velocità, penetrazione dinamiche d'automobile, noted in the inscription "Per Pelliccia" was possibly the famed violinist Arrigo Pelliccia (1912-1987). In the 1940s, Vittorio Frascione the Florentine antique dealer had acquired the work which was then acquired by a New York-based collector. When Balla first created the present work he simply signed it Balla. The dating and inscription were added at a later date, likely when it entered the collection of Pelliccia.