Lot 13
  • 13

ALBERTO GIACOMETTI | Buste d'homme (Diego au blouson)

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 USD
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  • Alberto Giacometti
  • Buste d'homme (Diego au blouson)
  • Inscribed Alberto Giacometti, dated 1953 and numbered 2/6
  • Bronze
  • Height: 14 in.
  • 35.5 cm
  • Conceived circa 1953; this example cast in 1953 by Susse Fondeur, Paris.


Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist on February 5, 1954)

Edwin E. Hokin, Chicago (acquired from the above by 1957)

Private Collection, New York

Eppinghoven Collection, Germany

Galerie Beyeler, Basel

Acquired from the above on September 9, 1987


Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Alberto Giacometti: dibujo escultura pintura, 1990-91, no. 220, illustrated in color in the catalogue 


Marcel Joray, Schweizer Plastik der Gegenwart, vol. I, Neuenberg, 1955, illustration of another cast pl. 75

Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthalle, Bern, 1956, illustration of another cast n.p. 

Ernest Scheidegger, Alberto Giacometti, Zurich, 1958, illustration of the plaster version pp. 90-91 (titled Büste des Bruders Diego and dated 1952-53)

Alberto Gaicometti (exhibtion catalogue), Galerie Beyeler, Basel, 1963, illustration of another cast pl. 45

Mario Negri, Alberto Giacometti, Milan, 1968, illustration of another cast pl. XVII

Mario Negri & Antoine Terrasse, Giacometti Sculptures, Paris, 1969, illustration of another cast pl. V

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) (exhibition catalogue), Academia di Francia, Villa Medici, Rome, 1970, illustrated of another cast n.p.

Die Sammlung der Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1971, illustration of another cast p. 155

Alberto Giacometti: A Retrospective Exhibition (exhibition catalogue), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1974, illustration of another cast pl. 98 

Willy Rotzler, Die Geschichte der Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung, Bern, 1982, illustration of another cast p. 429 

Alberto Giacometti Exposition au Japon (exhibition catalogue), The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1983, illustration of another cast n.p.

Bernard Lamarche-Vadel, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1984, illustration in color of another cast p. 151

Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, 1986, illustration in color of another cast pl. 134 

Franz Meyer, Alberto Giacometti, Madrid, 1986, illustration of another cast p. 69 

Axel Matthes, ed., Louis Aragon mit anderen: Wege zu Giacometti, Munich, 1987, illustration of another cast p. 63

Herbert & Mercedes Matter, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1987, illustrations of another cast pp. 96 & 105

Alberto Giacometti, Skulpturen—Gemälde—Zeichnungen—Graphik (exhibition catalogue), Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, & Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 1987-88, illustration of another cast p. 250

Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, pp. 432-33, illustration in color of another cast p. 434

Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Basil & Elise Goulandris Fondation, Athens, 1992, illustration of another cast p. 108

Angela Schneider, ed., Alberto Giacometti, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, New York, 1994, illustration of another cast fig. 87

Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthalle, Vienna & Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 1996, illustration of another cast p. 172

Alberto Giacometti in Postwar Paris (exhibition catalogue), Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich & Fondation de l'Hermitage, Lausanne, 2001-02, illustration in color of another cast p. 82 

L'Atelier d'Alberto Giacometti. Collection de la Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2007-08, illustration of another cast p. 393

Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection (exhibition catalogue), Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University, Columbus, 2014, illustrations in color of another cast pp. 37 & 162

Catalogue Note

Giacometti’s extraordinary Buste d'homme (Diego au blouson) is a robust personification of the Existentialist movement during the heated years of the Cold War. Of all his representations of the human figure, this sculpture is without question Giacometti's most formally radical, visually engaging and emotionally impactful. This imposing figure, parting his lips as if he is about to speak, embodies the anticipation of a moment yet to be realized. The model for this profoundly expressive sculpture was the artist's younger brother Diego, who inspired numerous variations on the theme of head and bust sculptures of the 1950s and whose physiognomic similarity to his brother invested these projects with an autobiographical narrative. The powerful Buste d'homme (Diego au blouson) is the most ambitious of a series of innovative sculptural portraits completed during this era and has since been considered one of the artist's greatest works. "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), op. cit., 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 (see fig. 1). 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 matière à pétrie, or kneaded method, that 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 perceptual 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., p. 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 modeled 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 vigor 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, op. cit., pp. 432-36).

Giacometti's choice of his brother Diego as the subject of this significant sculpture was based on his comfort 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 (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 140). Like the hauntingly beautiful paintings of his brother which Giacometti executed at the same time, Buste d'homme (Diego au blouson) demonstrates the artist's fascination with the emotive power of the sitter's face (see fig. 2). 

After the Second World War, Diego assumed the role of collaborator, creating the armatures for Alberto’s sculpture and supervising the casting of the bronzes; he was a crucial presence in his brother’s daily life, the man he knew best, muse and avatar. Laurie Wilson notes in her writing on sculptures such as Buste d'homme (Diego au blouson), which she called Giacometti’s knife-blade portraits: “Though listed as portraits of Diego, they are not modeled after him…. The unusual profile of these works is characterized by a protruding chin and a shock of bush hair which is recognizably Alberto’s” (quoted in Alberto Giacometti: Myth, Magic, and the Man (exhibition catalogue), Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 2005, p. 290).

The present sculpture is the artist's most ambitious experiment in representation of this most expressive part of the body and results in a work of art that captures the multiple incarnations of the model in one single form. Viewed from different vantage points, the present sculpture can be seen as two distinct heads: the side profile is much more articulated and full-bodied than the elongated, nearly intangible frontal view. This duality calls to mind the bust portrait of Nefertiti that had fascinated Giacometti throughout his career, and here he has achieved that similarly disconcerting perceptual effect (see fig. 3). 

When viewed frontally, the figure’s head in Buste d'homme (Diego au blouson) is reduced to a narrow oval in which one just manages to recognize the critical facial features. "Tapering to a point, the head cuts through space like a wedge and forms a scarcely distinct linear entity with the neck, ending in the funnel-like aperture of the polo-neck pullover... Seen from the side, it is the other way around. The head becomes flat, gaining profile, so that the mass and shape of the upper body are now subjected to its dominant effect" (Alberto Giacometti, The Origin of Space (exhibition catalogue), Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg & Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg, Salzburg, 2010-11, p. 140).

Patrick Elliot has written about the stunning visual effect of Grande tête mince, a directly related bronze conceived a year after the present work (see fig. 4): “In conversations, Giacometti observed enormous differences between a side view and a frontal view of an object, as if the two were completely separate things that could not possibly be rendered in a single sculpture. Giacometti normally represented figures as very frontal forms, and is reported to have said that : ‘when a person appeals to us or fascinates us we don't walk all around him. What impresses us about his appearance requires a certain distance.’ The present sculpture is a remarkable instance of Giacometti's attempt to unite two very different views in a single work” (Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 172).

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Comité Giacometti and it is recorded in the Alberto Giacometti database as AGD 4069.