Lot 67
  • 67

AUGUSTO GIACOMETTI | Flucht nach ÄgyptenFlight into Egypt

300,000 - 500,000 CHF
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  • Augusto Giacometti
  • Flucht nach ÄgyptenFlight into Egypt
  • Signed lower right and lower left;titled on verso
  • Oil on canvas
  • 138 x 140 cm


E. Landolt Cotti, Zurich
Private collection, USA


Berne, Kunstalle Bern, Augusto Giacometti, 1959
Chur, Kunsthaus Chur, Augusto Giacometti, 1959, cat 19


Erwin Poeschel, Augusto Giacometti, Zurich 1922, p. 19
Erwin Poeschel, Augusto Giacometti (=Monographien zur Schweizer Kunst, 3), Zurich 1928, p. 41 and 73, ill. 11
Eduard Briner, Augusto Giacometti. Sechs farbige Wiedergaben seiner Werke, Zurich 1935
Arnoldo M. Zendralli, Augusto Giacometti, Zurich 1936, ill.
Eduard Briner, Augusto Giacometti. Sechs mehrfarbige Wiedergaben seiner Werke, Zurich 1950, p. 6
Hans Hartmann, Augusto Giacometti. Pionier der abstrakten Malerei. Ein Leben für die Farbe, exhibition catalogue. Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur, 1981, no. 876


The painting is in very good and original condition. The stretching appears to be original and both the stretcher and canvas are in good condition. The cross bar of the stretcher is slightly deformed and touches the back of the painting. Both the ground and paint layer appear to be in very good condition, stable and well attached. There are cracks throughout the composition. Some cracks in the dark blue areas along the right edge have been retouched. Few minor losses have been filled and retouched. The surface has remained unvarnished. The original frame is in good condition. It shows traces of wear and minor losses.
"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

This work is registered in the Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA) under no. 181108 0003. Exhibited only once since 1916, Flucht nach Ägypten is without doubt one of the greatest masterpieces by Augusto Giacometti, a work in which the artist’s talent as a colourist and his poetic vision are beautifully condensed as one, confirming this painter as a pioneer of early abstract painting.

Set against an impressive halo of concentric circles, is a small group of figures passing through with a donkey and a carriage. Lit from behind by the glowing moon, their features remain hidden in the darkness of the night. The title of this work is revealing of their identity: it is the Holy family, fleeing Egypt to escape King Herod.

Depicted with the artist’s typical staggered patches of colour that show an impressive richness of nuances in yellows, golds and greens, Giacometti’s moon is here an overwhelming element of nature which goes beyond human comprehension. However baffling, the artist’s analytical approach to colour and abstraction was a means to understand the laws of nature and to ascend to a higher dimension in a sort of ‘transfiguration’ which is reminiscent of some German Romantics. A similar circular composition imbued with deeper symbolism, and the contrast between human fragility and nature’s ‘sublime’ can also be found in Regenbogen, Kunstmuseum Bern, also painted in 1916.  

Biblical subjects were not uncommon for the artist. When in Florence, where he lived between 1902 and 1915, he painted several works including L'annunciazione ai pastori (The Annunciation to the Shepherds), 1905, and Adamo ed Eva e Contemplazione (Adam and Eve and Contemplation), 1907. Medieval frescos and stained glass certainly provided inspiration for his work and might have been of comfort to him during those difficult years: his parents had separated and his younger brother had committed suicide. His dear aunt Marietta then passed away in 1914. Whilst Giacometti might have found comfort in religion, Flucht nach Ägypten also serves as a reminder of the constant struggles faced by his family, not least their forced departure from Florence due to the outbreak of WWI.