Visual Descriptions

Alberto Giacometti. The Chariot. 1950 64

Painted bronze on wood base, 57 x 26 x 26 1/8" (144.8 x 65.8 x 66.2 cm), base 9 3/4 x 4 1/2 x 9 1/4" (24.8 x 11.5 x 23.5 cm). Purchase. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Narrator 1: 6–4. Chariot. Made in 1950 by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, 1901–1966. Painted bronze on wood base. Figure: fifty–seven inches high by twenty–six inches square. 145 x 66 x 66cm; Base: ten inches high by five by nine inches in width. 25 x 12 x 24 cm.

Narrator 2: This entire sculpture, figure and base, stands nearly five feet off the ground. It depicts a very tall, thin, elongated figure standing upright on the seat of a simple, two–wheeled chariot. The chariot in turn rests on two narrow upright blocks of brown wood.

The figure appears to be a nude woman, as there’s a suggestion of hips and breasts. But her surface is rough, and she’s so emaciated and stretched out, that it’s impossible to make out detailed features. She has the frail, insubstantial quality of a figure viewed from a great distance. Her head is tall and flat, about the size of a thumb, with hair and facial features barely indicated. Her long thin arms curve down and slightly forward, like bent pipe–cleaners. They’re stiff and tense, with the hands held slightly outwards in front of her body. They might be in the right position for holding reins, if there were any reins – but no horse pulls this chariot. The figure looks elegantly poised, balancing delicately as if her vehicle is, indeed, in motion. Her legs are fused together to form one extremely long leg, almost double the length of her torso. It’s thin and knobbly like the leg of an ostrich—and, like an ostrich’s leg it ends in one large rather hoof–like foot. The foot is massive compared to the apparent fragility of the body. It’s the figure’s only substantial, sturdy feature.

The woman is perched on a small rectangular platform, like a simplified chariot seat. This stands on the axis that runs between the two large chariot wheels. The wheels are almost as tall as the woman who rises above them– adding to her air of frailty. They’re very simple, thin wheels – a large X across the diameter of each forms the spokes. The wooden blocks on which they rest are tall and narrow, just wide enough to accommodate them. The arrangement looks precarious, but in fact the wheels are invisibly attached to their base. In color, the figure and chariot are both dark, greenish bronze. Except for the smooth platform, the sculpture is rough, almost pitted, like some long–buried artifact from the ancient world that has corroded over the centuries.

Narrator 1: To hear the Collection Tour audio on this work, press 4–0–1.