Pair of 'Têtes de Lionnes' armchairs, second version

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  • Provenance

    Princesse de F., Paris, acquired directly from the artist, 1979-1981
    Thence by descent to the present owner

  • Literature

    Michel Butor, Diego Giacometti, Paris, 1985, pp. 116, 131, 139
    Françoise Francisci, Diego Giacometti: Catalogue de l’œuvre, Volume I, Paris, 1986, n. p.
    Daniel Marchesseau, Diego Giacometti, Paris, 1986, pp. 83, 177, 192
    Diego Giacometti: Möbel und Objekte aus Bronze, exh. cat., Museum Bellerive, Zürich, 1987, p. 16, no. 3
    François Baudot, Diego Giacometti, Paris, 1998, p. 75
    Christian Boutonnet and Rafael Ortiz, Diego Giacometti, exh. cat., Galerie l'Arc en Seine, Paris, 2003, pp. 10, 54

  • Catalogue Essay

    Composed of patinated bronze and wrought iron, the present pair of ‘Têtes de Lionnes’ armchairs simultaneously features a soft unevenness, revealing the artist’s hand, and a structural strength, as historically symbolised by the lion. The highlights of green and gold colour revealed in the armchairs’ patination give the objects a subtle richness, whilst enhancing their sculptural quality. Evoking forms from ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian excavations, the present lot reflects Diego Giacometti’s admiration for these civilisations, a lifelong inspiration following a trip to Egypt in his youth.

    One of Diego’s most iconic designs, these armchairs, which each feature two lion busts, pay homage to the client for whom the first version of the armchair was designed for. In 1970, four years after the death of his brother, Diego conceived the armchairs for Henrietta Vronsky-Asch, a friend of Alberto's, whose astrological sign was Leo. Following the first version of the armchair, which presented four evenly moulded feet, the second version was refined with front feet shaped as lion’s paws, as illustrated in the present lot.

    The original owner of the present pair of ‘Têtes de Lionnes’ armchairs was part of a noble family, much celebrated in Paris, and notorious for their parties during the nineteen-thirties and forties. Through an introduction by Henri Samuel, one of the most celebrated French interior designers of the twentieth century, the princess met Diego, subsequently giving her the opportunity to acquire the present lot.

  • Artist Bio

    Diego Giacometti

    Swiss • 1902 - 1985

    In 1935 Diego Giacometti took a holiday in Stampa, the Swiss town in which he grew up. The trip marked one of the first periods in which he was separated from his brother Alberto Giacometti, and perhaps in connection with having removed himself from the shadow of his brother's career, he began his first animal sculptures. It was shortly after this trip that the younger Giacometti also started making furniture, after patrons admired the stands he was crafting for his brother's sculptures. Diego modeled his maquettes in plaster (as opposed to clay or wax, which was the more common choice for sculptors) and cast his furniture in bronze, a departure from most metal furniture at the time, which was cast in iron. Illustrious clients included the Maeght and Noailles families as well as the decorator Jean-Michel Frank, who commissioned Alberto (assisted by Diego) to create plaster lighting and fireplace accessories.

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Property from a Private Collection, Paris

Pair of 'Têtes de Lionnes' armchairs, second version

conceived 1979, executed 1979-1981
Patinated bronze, wrought iron, leather.
Each: 82 x 55.5 x 56.9 cm (32 1/4 x 21 7/8 x 22 3/8 in.)

Estimate
£250,000 - 350,000 

sold for £429,000

Contact Specialist
Madalena Horta e Costa
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4019

Important Design

London Auction 26 April 2018