Lot 26
  • 26

Fausto Melotti

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Fausto Melotti
  • La Pioggia
  • brass
  • 184 by 130 by 65 cm. 72 1/2 by 51 1/8 by 25 5/8 in.
  • Executed in 1972 (conceived in 1966).


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner 


Florence, Galleria La Piramide, Fausto Melotti, May – June 1975

Sanremo, Galleria Beniamino, Fausto Melotti, July – August 1975, n.p., no. 6, illustrated

Trento, Castello del Buonconsiglio, Fausto Melotti. Opere 1935-1977, May – July 1977, no. 23, (text)

Florence, Forte di Belvedere, Melotti, April – June 1981, p. 45, illustrated

Varese, Torre Colombera di Gorla Maggiore, Fra Terra e Cielo. Fontana, Melotti, Leoncillo, February – March 1995, p. 55, illustrated

Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Fausto Melotti, April – June 1999, pp. 102, 158 and 211, no. 54, illustrated

New York, Acquavella Galleries, Fausta Melotti, April – June 2008, p. 103, illustrated

Naples, Madre Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Melotti, December 2011 – April 2012, n.p., no. 293, illustrated


Germano Celant, Melotti, Catalogo generale, Sculture 1929-1972, Vol. I, Milan 1994, p. 181, no. 1966 16, illustrated

Angelica Savinio and Francesca Antonini, Il Segno: Settembre 1964 - Dicembre 1994: Trent'anni, Rome 1995, p. 21, illustrated


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

One of the largest sculptures by the eminent Italian artist Fausto Melotti, La Pioggia is at once delicately poetic and commandingly monumental. A beautiful example of the artist’s unique lyrical voice, La Pioggia, or 'rain' in English, is a whimsical mirage of nature. Long metal poles delimit the outlines of the work, like authoritative lines on a blank page. As space permeates the large-scale sculpture it eschews any sense of mass.  Melotti explained: “I use metal because it brings me close to drawing: with metal I can draw in space” (Fausto Melotti cited in: B. Mantura, 'Per Fausto Melotti', in: Exh. Cat., Rome, Melotti, 1983, p. 10). In dialogue with the geometric constructions of his Swiss forbearer Alberto Giacometti and the weightless mobiles of Alexander Calder, Melotti’s gracefully assembled metal sculptures reimagined sculptural boundaries. By adventuring toward new conceptions of spatial understanding, material innovation, and symbolic meaning he shaped the discourse of sculpture in the Twentieth Century. Combining an imaginative narrative poetry with Renaissance principles of music, geometry and harmony, Melotti forged an entirely unique and influential sculptural language.  

Hovering on the cusp between representation and abstraction, La Pioggia’s long metal rods are clustered together at the top by a halo-esque cloud, while the streaks of rain have formed circular puddles on the ground beneath. As pointed out by the art historian Jole de Sanna: “The ecstatic field opened by the phenomenal moment generated by nature functions as a suspended moment in Melotti’s essentially moral meditation on the essence of things” (Jole de Sanna, ‘Commentaries on selected works’, in: Exh. Cat., Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Fausto Melotti, April – June 1999, p. 212). Purporting a visual representation of the idyll, the work can be linked to Hellenistic literature, in which the idyll explores aspects of nature in their moment of origin. Beautifully invoking the purity of Melotti’s pursuit of profound emotional experiences through a universally accessible symbolic language, the present work displays the primary concerns of the artist’s mature practice.

From the outset of his artistic career in the early 1930s in Milan, Melotti was a key member of the post-war Milanese avant-garde. Following his degree in electrotechnical engineering at the University of Pisa in 1924, Melotti studied figurative art under the Symbolist sculptor Adolfo Wildt at the Accademia dell Brera in Milan. An active member of the vibrant artistic milieu of pre-war Milan, Melotti befriended fellow student Lucio Fontana, whose work would have a lasting influence on him, as well as the Rationalist architects of Gruppo 7 and the abstract artists associated with the Galleria del Milione. Highly influenced by Fontana, he joined the Abstraction-Creations movement and firmly embraced the dialectic of non-figurative art. However, like many of the post-war European avant-garde, the horrors of the Second World War provoked a change in direction in his art. He began a series of miniature 'theatre scenes' –  complete with small characters and objects – that were familiarly known as teatrini. Decades later, during the 1960s and 70s, he introduced this narrative element into his late works. Permeated with playful narratives and lyrical import, these metal sculptures have since garnered great international acclaim.

With a dainty fragility that contradicts any traditional notion of sculpture’s sturdy monumentality, La Pioggia truly encapsulates the poetry, mastery of composition and form along with the visual and technical excellence that Melotti had achieved at this point in his career. As Jole de Sanna so poignantly declared: "The art of Fausto Melotti – secret, lyrical, poetic – opens a window onto our century, illuminating the intersection between classical culture and the birth of the avant garde” (Jole de Sanna ‘ Enchanted Lyricist’ in: Exh. Cat., New York, Paolo Baldacci Gallery, Fausto Melotti: Anti-sculpture, 1994, p. 9).