Diego Giacometti - Design London Tuesday, September 19, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    P.P., Neuilly Sur Seine, acquired directly from the artist, 1979-1985
    Thence by descent
    Private collection, France
    Acquired from the above by 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

    Following a 1927 journey to Egypt, Diego Giacometti returned to Paris with a strengthened artistic identity inspired by the great ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome. The same year Diego and his brother Alberto left their Rue Froidevaux studio and settled at Rue Hyppolyte-Maindron, where they remained for many decades. These years were marked by financial difficulties for the brothers. In order to sustain their humble lifestyle, Alberto created jewellery for the Parisian creative director and designer Elsa Schiapparelli.

    It was their friendship with Jean-Michel Frank, whom Alberto had met through Man Ray, which eventually eased the brothers’ economic situation. Sharing artistic interest in minimalism, Alberto went onto create numerous decorative furnishings for Frank, ranging from lighting to candlesticks, which the interior decorator used to furnish his interiors and sold at his Parisian boutique. This seminal collaboration between the brothers and Frank continued up until the beginning of the Second World War. Diego played a key role supporting Alberto with an indispensable ‘extra pair of hands’ needed to produce interior elements intended for larger production. Within the studio walls, Diego’s responsibilities ranged from producing structural supports for Alberto’s sculptures to applying patina to his brother’s bronzes, a difficult procedure for which Diego was an expert.

    In 1948, Diego notably placed a bird atop of a chandelier Alberto was creating for Luis Border, marking the first time Diego intervened in one of his brother’s commissions. Alberto, who held a firm belief in Diego’s own abilities as an artist, encouraged him to accept his own commissions. Diego soon began designing furnishings for the brothers’ dealers Aimé and Marguerite Maeght in Paris, and Pierre Matisse in New York. Despite having been "constantly connected to the intellectual development of Alberto’s work" for most of his life (Christian Boutonnet and Rafael Ortiz, Diego Giacometti, exh. cat., Galerie l'Arc en Seine, Paris, 2003, p. 13), Diego embraced the opportunity to freely explore his own long-term aspiration to create furniture. In 1960 Diego moved to his own studio where he began to shape his own world, populated by enchantment. Always a great admirer of the natural world, Diego’s appreciation for animals can be traced back to his youth spent in his Swiss hometown amongst nature and its creatures.

    The present lot, a pair of ‘Têtes de Lionnes’ armchairs, is one of Diego’s most iconic designs. He conceived the armchairs for Henrietta Vronsky-Asch, a friend of Alberto’s, in 1970, four years after his beloved brother’s untimely death. The two lion busts featured on each of the armchairs pay homage to the client, 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.

  • Artist Biography

    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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Pair of 'Têtes de Lionnes' armchairs, second version

conceived 1979, executed 1979-1985
Patinated bronze, wrought iron, hide.
Each: 82.5 x 61.2 x 67.2 cm (32 1/2 x 24 1/8 x 26 1/2 in.)

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £450,600

Contact Specialist
Sofia Sayn-Wittgenstein
+44 207 901 7926


London Auction 20 September 2017