Square wall sconce
Date circa 1930
Dimensions 5,31 x 5,31 x 5,90 in.
Collection Private collection, Paris, France
Alberto Giacometti created this sconce around 1930 for the designer Jean-Michel Frank. Composed of two volumes fitted together with an almost square section, this cubic sconce in plaster is covered in a slightly pinkish tint, including inside, perhaps in order to colour the halo of light. The sconce is not especially equipped to receive an electric bulb, which is simply placed inside. The irregular and nervous lines characteristic of Alberto Giacometti’s objects belie the cubic shape and reinforce the primitive aspect of the piece. They correspond to a certain archaism extolled by Jean-Michel Frank in his interiors. On the side of the upper band of the sconce there are three signs in an unknown alphabet. These motifs could have been inspired by ancient alphabets (Etruscan, Cycladic) that Alberto Giacometti could possibly have seen reproduced in magazines like “Cahiers d’Art” or “Documents”, that published at the time articles on archaeological finds. At the same time, the very controversial discovery of the archaeological remains of Glozel (Allier) comprising an alphabet, gave rise to a sensational trial between 1928 and 1932. This edition was installed in the Parisian flat of François Mauriac, designed by Jean-Michel Frank in 1930. The designer also installed Alberto Giacometti’s Oval wall sconces. Jean-Michel Frank’s pared down fitting was written about by Mauriac in 1932 in the magazine “Art et médicine” under the title “L’esthétique de la sécurité dans le renoncement”. In that bare interior, the sconces are the only elements tolerated on the walls by the designer. The title of “cubic wall sconce” figures on Jean-Michel Franks’ invoice to François Mauriac (archives centre François Mauriac), the object is also called “square wall sconce” on a statement of the commission paid to the artist (archives Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti). There has not been a bronze edition of this sconce, or an edition after the war.
Sale Isabelle Bailly-Pommery Paris (France), December 6th, 2004, lot n ° 114
Private collection, Paris (France)
2007 Surreal things: Surrealism and Design, London (United Kingdom), Victoria and Albert Museum, from March 29th to July 22nd 2007, no. 11.14
2009 Jean-Michel Frank. un décorateur dans le Paris des années 30, Paris (France), Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent, from October 2nd 2009 to January 3rd 2010
Art Nouveau-Art Déco, Paris : Isabelle Bailly-Pommery, 2004, lot no. 114
Surreal Things, London : V&A Publications, 2007, cat. no. 11.14, p. 201, ill. p. 201
Jean-Michel Frank. Un décorateur dans le Paris des années 30, Paris : Editions Norma, 2009, p. 120, ill. p. 120