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Diego Giacometti for Givenchy Inspired, Bronze, Handsculpted, Octagonal Table

Diego Giacometti for Givenchy Inspired, Bronze, Handsculpted, Octagonal Table

Diego Giacometti
75.00cm high (29.53 inches high)
125.00cm wide (49.21 inches wide)
136.00cm deep (53.54 inches deep)
Description / Expertise
A unique, hand-sculpted and handworked, solid bronze, octagonal table, inspired by the three octagonal tables sculpted by Diego Giacometti for Hubert Givenchy: Lucy Howgego 2020

This table was conceived to be elemental, made from pure bronze, sculpted and handworked in the spirit of classical antiquities which is subtlety different to pieces by Diago Giacometti whose handling is more brutal. This table is unique as it has been made using the lost wax process and is intended to be an understated, striking statement/conversation piece that will sit harmoniously in either a contemporary or period interior.

The octagonal form of the tables that Diego Giacometti made for Givenchy are the inspiration for this table as the octagon is such an elegant shape, particularly for an entrance hall, large drawing room or library. The octagonal form has not been produced in great quantity, over time, so relatively few large, tables of this form come onto the open market. The ornamentation has been pared down to the minimum to enhance the octagonal form, hand-modelling and mulit-layered patina of the bronze. The rhythmic, combed frieze design is found in antiquity but also has a contemporary feel to it. The bar beneath the frieze and the cross stretcher are included to enhance the verticality and create a light, soft quality. The ball and ring foot design was very popular in the 16th and 17th centuries and it is used here as it is sufficiently bold to support the design but not too dense which would weigh down or overpower it. A soft twenty-layered patina has been created with verdigris in the relief and warm brown tones on the flatter elements. Plywood was chosen for the top as it is characteristic of the period, inexpensive and suggestive as there are so many options for the top which can be personalised to a client's taste or decorative scheme. This unique, handsculpted, solid bronze, octagonal table presents a rare opportunity to acquire a handsculpted, solid bronze piece with a traditional patina, made in the spirit of the master of this genre for a collector who was the master of style, at a fraction of the cost of an original.

In 2017 Christies Paris auctioned twenty-one pieces of Giacometti furniture custom-made for Givenchy’s Château de Jonchet in the Loire Valley which included the three octagonal tables. The top price of the evening was lot 16 Diego Giacometti’s octagonal table aux caryatides et atlantes, executed circa 1980 which realised €4,162,500 (estimate: €600,000-800,000) establishing a new auction record for the artist. The two other octagonal tables lots 7 and 11 realised EUR 3,770,500 and EUR 3,266,500 respectively.

“Mr. Givenchy was very seduced by this octagonal shape...He first commissioned this table, and then ordered two others with a larger diameter. The idea behind the model was the table Torsade Giacometti made for the famous decorator Henri Samuel in 1976 which was a midsize rectangular table. Givenchy thought a more octagonal shape would perfectly suit the corner of a room in his château. He thought it looked very elegant that way."

• Octagonal form
• 125cm., 49¼ in. end-to-end, 136cm., 53½ in. point to point
• Height 75cm., 29½ in.
• Weight approximately 95 kilos
• Top flush with frieze (2cm allowance to accomodate top)
• Rhythmic combed frieze design with bronze band below
• Hand sculpted and worked columnar legs
• Octagonal cross stretcher
• Ball and ring foot
• Classical 20 layered patina over cast bronze
• Option to fit a bronze screw into a stretcher to attach a bronze sculpture
• Plywood top
Further information available on request

Diego Giacometti
Diego Giacometti came to furniture design late in life, following decades of engagement in the arts. In addition to his own artistic practice, he served as an assistant to his brother, creating the plaster casts and patina for many of the artist’s famous figures and serving as a model for portraits until Alberto’s death in 1966. Through his brother, with whom he moved to Paris’s Montparnasse in 1927, Diego met many of the most famous creative minds of the day, many of whom such as Cecil Beaton, Jean Cocteau and Hubert de Givenchy would go on to collect his work.

The Giacometti brothers’ most important friendship was that with Pablo Picasso, whom they met shortly after moving to Paris. Later, at the age of 80, Diego would be tasked with designing the furniture and lighting for the Museé Picasso in Paris, for which he created a series of bronze benches, tables, chairs, torch lights, and resin chandeliers meant to link the classical building with the modern art on display. The resulting works, still fixtures at the museum, are proof of the artist’s timeless appeal.

“The pieces of Diego are fairly universal—made of bronze with a touch of whimsy and a lot of poetry,” says Florent Jeanniard, specialist and head of the design department at Sotheby’s France. “It is really furniture made by an artist. The proportions, the finishes make for perfect furniture.”

Beyond Diego’s work with his brother, other influences can be found in his output. There are the birds studied from trips to the Jardin des Plantes and animal figures inspired by travel to Egypt as a young man. But still, it was a careful lifetime study of aesthetics that culminated in his slow embrace of his own creativity in the last quarter of his life. “He controlled the amount he produced and his work was not disseminated like current furniture is,” Jeanniard explains, part of what contributed to the high sums his work made during the 1980s. Indeed, the artist didn’t begin focusing on his own practice until after his brother’s death, and even then, he moved slowly. “Patience was needed, it took several months before even receiving one of his small cups,” Jeanniard says, and clients would often wait for years for Diego Giacometti to even begin a commission. “His pieces are therefore quite rare.”

For his part, Diego found creative freedom in working with others. “I like commissions—they’re fertile ground for the imagination, and always inspire me” he told Architectural Digest in 1983, for a story about his modest Paris home. In the same interview, Diego demurred at the idea of a solo exhibition of his work, which he humbly considered functional above all else. He wouldn’t live to see the first retrospective of his work, a 1986 exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, but it would be instrumental in cementing his own legacy as an artist within the world of furniture and decor. He said towards the end of this life, “I like creating useful things, things that serve a purpose.”

After Givenchy’s passing, Architectural Digest featured reminiscences from Venet and a bunch of their friends, including :

PHILIPPE VENET: Hubert asked, “Why don’t we have some Giacometti?” We had just sold our chalet in Megève—I was a very good skier and served in a mountain patrol during my military service—so I said, “Why not?” When Christie’s auctioned our Giacomettis [in 2017], we had a ferronnier make us a copy of the octagonal table. There are many homemades at Le Jonchet: a “La Fresnaye,” a “Picasso” that Hubert drew. After selling the big Joan Miró in his atelier to the Pompidou, I told him, “We must make a Léger.” So we did a collage together.

MOMA TRUSTEE MERCEDES BASS: It’s very hard to tell the difference between their works and the real things, though they never copied; they made renditions. Most were wonderful collages: Hubert and Philippe would prepare the backgrounds, then cut the paper and create a collage of a painting. I love this have your cake and eat it, too, sell your tables and paintings and make them again–and still have people describing it in these equivocating terms about copies and renditions. Givenchy studied at the Beaux Arts, and his obituary in The Guardian described his retirement from fashion with, “He had long since set up an alternative life as an ‘amateur d’art.'” So if your question is, would you rather have a Giacometti table in your chateau, or a remoulade Giacomettian table in your chateau and EUR33 million, my question is, how close do you need to get to the table?


“I can see the traces of Diego’s hand and character in his work”.

Of their first meeting, Givenchy recalls, ‘I asked Gustav Zumsteg if it was possible to meet Giacometti, and he introduced me to him shortly afterwards.’ The encounter marked the beginning of a friendship that would endure for 20 years. ‘He was a very kind man: simple, welcoming, discreet, and a talented craftsman,’ says the designer. Giacometti made his first pieces for Givenchy’s house at Jouy at the end of 1960, and from the early 1970s worked on bespoke pieces for the designer’s elegant Château de Jonchet in the Loire Valley.

Givenchy was introduced to Giacometti’s work in the 1960s by Swiss silk specialist Gustav Zumsteg, whose designs made Abraham Ltd one of the most famous fabric suppliers to the haute-couture business. Zumsteg collected contemporary art, much of which still hangs in the Kronenhalle, a restaurant opened by his mother’s family in Zürich, where the bar is lit by lamps designed by Giacometti. Givenchy was introduced to the artist-artisan by art dealer Aimé Maeght, eponym of the famous foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and their relationship deepened to such an extent that the tombs of Givenchy’s dogs buried at Jonchet, over which large Lalanne birds watch, are surmounted by bronze canine sculptures by Giacometti.

Just as with the exhibition Givenchy mounted in 2016 in honour of Hepburn and the work he has done for the Balenciaga Museum, he wanted to honour the oeuvre and memory of a departed friend and believed that a sale was the best way to achieve that. “I think it is better that I do a sale for Diego and I want to do it in homage to him. He was always so quiet, so modest, so humble and I want to show that he was not just second fiddle to his brother. I want to show others what I saw in him and his work…..“I feel I have to do it…after all, if I do not do it, someone else will” Theirs was a friendship and collaboration that echoes in some measure the relationship with Hepburn.

CHRISTIES, Sale 14610, Les Giacometti d'Hubert de Givenchy, Paris - 6 March 2017

Commenting on the auction of twenty-one pieces, François de Ricqlès, President of Christie’s France, said: ‘It is with great pride that we present The Giacometti of Hubert de Givenchy. Through Hubert de Givenchy’s collection, whose taste and elegance are the inspiration for many collectors, we are able to pay tribute to one of the most poetic and talented artists of the 20th century, Diego Giacometti.’

The sentiment is echoed by Givenchy, who adds: ‘With this sale, I want to pay a further tribute to him, an additional recognition which he does not need, but which shows how important he was to me.’

Most of the 21 Giacometti pieces up for auction were custom made for Givenchy’s Château de Jonchet in the Loire Valley.

If Givenchy’s own circle was star-studded, Giacometti’s was equally impressive. As a young man, Giacometti had travelled from his native Switzerland to Paris to collaborate with the renowned interior designer Jean-Michel Frank, who introduced him to fashion legends including Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel and Hélène Rochas. It was here that Giacometti met Zumsteg, who worked for clients including Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as Hubert de Givenchy.

Perhaps the most famous of Diego Giacometti’s circle, however, was his brother Alberto, 13 months older than Diego, with whom he shared a small apartment in Montparnasse and a studio in Rue Hippolyte-Maindron. Their collaboration was a life-long one, spanning 40 years until Alberto’s death in 1966.

In Paris, Diego soon became the preferred designer within the city’s most fashionable circles, receiving orders to furnish private apartments, including that belonging to Aimé and Marguerite Maeght. The couple had always supported and promoted the Giacometti brothers, and acquired several sculptures by Alberto before asking Diego to design their home on Paris’s Avenue Foch. A further commission followed, for the Maeght Foundation founded in 1964 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, 25km from Nice. Following Alberto’s death Diego became devoted to the orders he received, including one in 1984 for the Musée Picasso, which was inaugurated a year later.

Some of the images show how Givenchy positioned and used his octagonal tables at the chateau.

At the Christies auction, the top price of the evening was lot 16 Diego Giacometti’s octagonal table aux caryatides et atlantes, executed circa 1980 which realised €4,162,500 (estimate: €600,000-800,000) establishing a new auction record for the artist. The two other octagonal tables lots 7 and 11 realised EUR 3,770,500 and EUR 3,266,500 respectively.

Lot 7 DIEGO GIACOMETTI 1902-1985
Grande table octogonale aux caryatides et atlantes, vers 1983
Bronze patiné et pin naturel / patinated bronze and pinewood
H 81,5 x D 190,5 cm / 32 ¼ x 75 in
Signée DIEGO et monogrammée DG sur une traverse de l’entretoise
Provenance : Collection Hubert de Givenchy, commandée à l'artiste vers 1983.
Price realised EUR 3,770,500
Estimate EUR 800,000 - EUR 1,200,000

Lot 11 DIEGO GIACOMETTI 1902-1985
Grande table octogonale aux caryatides et atlantes, vers 1983
Bronze patiné et placage de chêne teinté / patinated bronze and stained oak veneer
H 82 x D 190,5 cm / 32 ¼ x 75 in
Signée DIEGO et monogrammée DG sur une traverse de l’entretoise
Provenance Collection Hubert de Givenchy, commandée à l'artiste vers 1983.
Price realised EUR 3,266,500
Estimate EUR 800,000 - EUR 1,200,000

Lot 16 DIEGO GIACOMETTI 1902-1985
Table octogonale aux caryatides et atlantes, vers 1980
Bronze patiné et placage de chêne teinté céladon / patinated bronze and celadon stained oak veneer
H 81,5 x D 162,5 cm / 32 1/8 x 64 in
Signée DIEGO et monogrammée DG sur une traverse de l’entretoise
Price realised EUR 4,162,500
Estimate EUR 600,000 - EUR 800,000.

United Kingdom
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