La Boule suspendue
La Boule suspendue is a key piece in the career of the young Alberto Giacometti, who arrived in Paris in 1922. Exhibited at the Pierre Gallery in 1930, the sculpture impressed the surrealist circle, notably André Breton and Salvador Dalí. Giacometti joined them at the end of 1930, which brought him not only a stimulating circle of friends but also a professional support system.
The Boule suspendue has evolved in several versions, but it has never been cast in bronze.
A first preliminary state can be seen in a photograph of Marc Vaux, taken in the studio of Alberto Giacometti in March 1931. The sculpture does not yet translate the ethereal character and the possibility of the movement of the ball on the crescent, for which she is known today. This version, which is now destroyed, is entirely covered with a layer of plaster. The surface appears irregular and rough.
A preparatory version for the wooden version is visible in a corner of Giacometti's studio on a photograph taken by Man Ray in 1934. The piece was most likely created between the end of the year 1930 and March 1931. It is also destroyed today. In the photograph, we see thin and smooth cage stems, while the plateau seems thicker than that of the previous version. The cage, tray and crescent are white plaster, while the ball is a darker color. It is possible that it was painted or in wood.
In a letter to his family in January 1931, Giacometti mentions that he is working with a carpenter and a metalworker, which tells us that the work for the wooden hanging ball has begun.
A photograph taken in March 1931 shows the completed sculpture. The thin rods of the cage are black metal. The tray, ball and crescent are made of dark brown wood. The treated surface shows lacquer flows, especially at the level of the ball. The slightly domed plate is placed on four small metal brackets and the ball has a large incision, which leaves the imagination of the viewer.
For his first personal exhibition at the Pierre Matisse gallery in New York, Alberto Giacometti created a new plaster version of the Boule suspendue. By letters sent to his gallerist, Giacometti gives the date of execution: between late September and mid-October 1947. Like the wooden version, it has a metal cage, composed of very thin rods. The ball, crescent and tray are in plaster. The latter is slightly convex and supports in its center the crescent. It bears the artist's signature and the inscription "original plaster" made with a brush.
The plaster version and the wooden version of the hanging ball are not available, Giacometti creates a last plaster version for its retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London in 1965. Like the 1947 version, this cage is dark metal , while the tray, the ball and the crescent are in plaster. The tray is surrounded by a thin metal support and the feet of the cage have small round reinforcements. The two mated forms appear smaller than in previous versions.
Exhibited several times under the title Heure des traces, the sculpture is now known as the Boule suspendue. This title was definitively imposed in 1948, after Pierre Matisse's first monographic exhibition of Giacometti.
by Michèle Kieffer
Head of the Giacometti Committee and Researcher - Sculptures