Lot 3
  • 3


2,500,000 - 3,500,000 GBP
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  • Alberto Giacometti
  • Buste de Diego
  • inscribed A. Giacometti, numbered 4/6 and with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur
  • bronze
  • height: 36.2cm.
  • 14 1/4 in.
  • Conceived in 1956 and cast in bronze in an edition of 6. This example was cast in 1957.


Galerie Maeght, Paris Hanover Gallery (Erica Brausen), London (acquired from the above in 1958)

Mrs Donald Ogden-Stewart (Ella Winter), London (acquired from the above on 25th June 1958)

Erica Brausen, London & Zurich

Private Collection, United Kingdom (acquired from the above in the 1970s)

The Lefevre Gallery (Alex Reid and Lefevre Ltd.), London

Private Collection, United Kingdom (acquired from the above in 1980)

Lefevre Fine Art, London

Acquired from the above by the present owner in November 2014


London, Hanover Gallery, Giacometti, Marini, Matisse, Moore, 1958, no. 7, illustrated in the catalogue Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Verzameling Ella Winter, 1961-62, illustrated in the catalogue

London, Tate Gallery, Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings 1913-65, 1965, no. 59 (titled Head of Diego and as dating from 1955)


Jacques Dupin, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1962, the plaster version illustrated p. 279 (titled Tête and as dating from 1957) David Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, London, 1994, clay version illustrated in photographs of the artist's studio pp. 77-79

Ernst Scheidegger, Alberto Giacometti – Sculpture in Plaster, Zurich & Frankfurt, 2006, plaster version illustrated p. 84

L'Atelier d'Alberto Giacometti, Collection de la Fondation Alberto e Annette Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2007-08, no. 215, plaster version illustrated p. 406 (titled Head and Shoulders)

The Alberto Giacometti Database, no. AGD 3448, illustrated (www.fondation-giacometti.fr)

Catalogue Note

Giacometti’s Buste de Diego is a highly expressive depiction of the artist’s brother and primary model, Diego. Of all the artist’s representations of the human figure, it is his portraits of Diego that are the most formally radical and visually engaging sculptures. Diego’s distinctive features inspired numerous variations on the theme of head and bust sculptures of the 1950s and their physiognomic similarity to the artist's brother invested these projects with an almost autobiographical narrative.  

‘To me’, Giacometti once stated, ‘sculpture is not an object of beauty but a way for me to try to understand a bit better what I see in a given head, to understand a bit better what appeals to me about it and what I admire in it' (reprinted in Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space (exhibition catalogue), Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg & Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg, Salzburg, 2010-11, p. 73). By the 1950s, Giacometti shifted his attention from the spindly, elongated figures of his post-war years, like Homme qui chavire, and turned to figural sculptures that were more naturalistic in scale. Most of these works were heads and half-length busts, completed between 1951 and 1957 and often executed from memory. For the most part, these sculptures were solid, designed without a base, and executed with the matiére pétrie, or kneaded method, which heightened the expressiveness of the figure. The artist relied on an intensely hands-on process for this sculpture to create the indentations and the folds of Diego's jacket and in the sharp bridge of his nose. ‘Each of these nebulous undergoing perpetual metamorphosis seems like Giacometti's very life transcribed in another language,’ Jean-Paul Sartre wrote when observing the artist at work on his sculptures in his studio (reprinted in ibid. 233). ‘These sculpted faces compel one to face them as if one were speaking to the person’, Yves Bonnefoy has written, ‘meeting his eyes and thereby understanding better the compression, the narrowing that Giacometti imposed on the chin or the nose or the general shape of the skull. This was the period when Giacometti was most strongly conscious of the fact that the inside of the plaster or clay mass which he modelled was something inert, undifferentiated, nocturnal, that it betrays the life he sought to represent, and that he must therefore strive to eliminate this purely spatial dimension by constricting the material to fit the most prominent characteristics of the face. This is exactly what he achieves with amazing vigour when, occasionally, he gave Diego's face a blade-like narrowness - drawing seems to have eliminated the plaster, the head has escaped from space - and demands therefore that the spectator stand in front of the sculpture as he did himself, disregarding the back and sides of his model and as bound to a face-to-face relationship as in the case of work at an easel. 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”’ (Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, pp. 432-436).

Giacometti's choice of his brother Diego as the subject of this sculpture and numerous others was based on his comfortability and familiarity with his model. ‘He's sat for me thousands of times’, Giacometti said. ‘When's he's sitting there, I don't recognize him. I like to get him to sit, so as to see what I see’ (reprinted in Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space, ibid, p. 140). Like the hauntingly beautiful paintings of his brother which Giacometti executed at the same time, Buste de Diego demonstrates the artist's fascination with the emotive power of the sitter's face.

The original plaster for the present work is held by the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti in Paris. The present cast was acquired in 1958 by the dealer Erica Brausen who founded the influential Hanover Gallery in London in 1946, which championed the art of British artists Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Henry Moore as well as some of Europe's most important avant-garde artists. Brausen sold it on to one of her best clients, Ella Winter, an Anglo-American journalist married to the American writer Donald Ogden Stewart. It was exhibited as part of her collection at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam over the winter of 1961-62 before being reacquired by Erica Brausen for her personal collection and subsequently sold to private collectors in the United Kingdom.