Meaningful Creations

A commissioned work for a European Collector

Cecil Beaton, Portrait of Diego Giacometti, 1962. Image courtesy of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's

Completed circa 1980, this exceptional bronze table, with its small animal flourishes, serves as a testament not only to the talents of Diego Giacometti, but also to his enduring friendship with a European collector, for whom the piece was commissioned. 

The two men were initially introduced in 1965 by Diego’s brother, Alberto, when the collector was a young man of twenty. During an inauspicious meeting at the Café la Closerie des Lilas in Paris, the three talked amicably of many things but due to a mutual shyness on the part of Diego and the collector, parted ways quietly that day. 

Three years later though, they were reunited by Margaret Maeght at Diego’s studio in Rue Hippolyte-Maindron and it was then that a close camaraderie blossomed, filled with long walks, trips to the theater, and visits with mutual friends. They continued in this way for the rest of the artisan’s life but despite this intimacy, the collector was for a long time reluctant to request commissioned works.

Prior to 1966, Diego’s works had been in high demand and he had undertaken important commissions for the Musée Picasso, in the Hôtel Salé, the Maeght Foundation and the homes of Hubert de Givenchy. But with the passing of Alberto in 1966 from heart complications, Diego's grief caused him to experience a diminished enthusiasm and capability to complete the complex works for which he had become known. The commissions slowed in the studio that he and Alberto had shared and he created fewer works for personal friends. It is significant, therefore, that almost 20 years after the loss of his brother, he agreed to complete a collection of works, which includes this table, for two of the European collector’s residences as a token of their enduring friendship.

“Touching memories of Diego’s life and work remain fresh in my mind: when I, along with other friends attempted to reorganized his chaotic lifestyle, the joy we felt when he recovered from an accident, and when the long-anticipated comprehensive book about his work by Daniel Marchesseau was being prepared in conjunction with the 1986 exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (to which we all contributed). During his final illness we gathered unhappily at his side, and when he left us, we felt a strange transcendent sense of peace”.