Femme Leoni : A short history from 1947 to 1958

Fondation Giacometti -  Femme Leoni : A short history from 1947 to 1958

A photograph of Alexander Liberman taken in 1951 in Alberto Giacometti's studio presents the first known version of the Leoni Woman. The hair characteristic of this plaster is already recognizable, while thin legs with small feet are based on a stand composed of two parts.

The painted face of the sculpture is perfectly visible on an image taken by Sabine Weiss in 1954. These features are still visible on the plaster today. The pedestal and wider feet have been modified, but do not seem yet finished.

In 1956, the base of the sculpture was reworked by the artist before he exhibited the piece for the first time at the Kunsthalle Bern. The plaster, which is shown under the title Figure V, is displayed next to the Women of Venice created at the beginning of the same year.
It was not until 1959 that Giacometti chose the title Leoni Woman, as a tribute to Peggy Guggenheim's Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. The lower part of the sculpture has been greatly reduced. The base became a rectangular shape and the feet were completely removed. The piece is presented on an exhibition stand in order to catch up with the height.

After the exhibition, Giacometti return to the parts of the sculpture that leave him dissatisfied. He sculpts big feet and tilts the top of the base. The piece is finally sent to the foundry in 1957, where the plaster is cut in two pieces and coated with a shellac. After the melting of some prints, the artist, still unhappy with the piece, decides to add an additional base.

The painted plaster is today in the collection of the Giacometti Foundation.
A major restoration was done in 2017 to erase the traces left by the foundry.  

by Michèle Kieffer

Head of the Giacometti Committee and Researcher - Sculptures

Images
Fondation Giacometti -  Leonie6.jpg

June 1956

The sculpture is exhibited alongside four figures of the 1956 series later known as "Women of Venice".

The base has been lowered and narrowed ; this flat base is placed on a white-painted high pedestal of the same width. The legs are thicker towards the ankles and calves than in 1951. The feet have disappeared.

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Kunsthalle in Bern in 1956, with Femme Leonion the right in the foreground.

Fondation Giacometti -  Leonie7.jpg

June 1956

The bottom part of Femme Leoni has been reworked at the same time as the series that will later be called "Women of Venice". The arms have been fixed. The sculpture is exhibited as "Figure V, 1956".

The legs are clearly just a stem planted in the narrow flat-top base. Only one of the 1956 series has the same disposition.

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Kunsthalle in Bern in 1956, with Femme Leonion the right in the foreground.

Fondation Giacometti -  Leonie10.jpg

1957

The artist adds a rectangular volume under the base. The upper part of the figure, constructed directly in plaster over a metal armature, has been covered in 1957 with brown shellack to harden it for the bronze casting process. It has also been cut in half. The painted lines, still visible under the shellack, show that it is the plaster.

In 1958, the artist adds a supplementary base, slightly larger, under the slanted narrow base designed in 1956.

Femme Leoni, 1947 (final version of 1958)
Plaster

To search for a work, consult the Alberto Giacometti Database