Verbal Descriptions

Alberto Giacometti. The Palace at 4 a.m. 1932 81

Wood, glass, wire, and string, 25 x 28 1/4 x 15 3/4" (63.5 x 71.8 x 40 cm). Purchase. © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Narrator 1: 8–1 The Palace at 4 AM. Made in 1932 by the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. Wood, glass, wire, and string. 25 inches high by 28 inches wide by 16 inches deep. 65 x 72 x 40 cm.

Narrator 2: This delicate sculpture looks like an architectural model or the frame of a dollhouse. It fills the inside of a rectangular clear Plexiglas case—three feet wide, two feet deep and two feet in height—which rests on a white pedestal—about waist height—provided by the Museum. On top of the white pedestal, is a black wooden disk about seven inches in diameter and four inches tall. On this disk sits a thin rectangular piece of caramel colored wood—less than one inch thick—with rounded corners that serves as the base for the rest of the sculpture.

On top of this base, thin rounded sticks of caramel–colored wood, the size of long chopsticks, form the framework of the building. The building has a number of separate areas or rooms as a dollhouse would, but it has no walls, and no roof it’s a frame, or, as Giacometti once described it, a ‘skeleton in space’. There are a number of unusual objects inside the structure, which give it a fantastical and mysterious quality.

Let’s tour the structure, beginning on your left in a triangular–shaped room, the only room on the left side of the house. In it stands a wooden figurine of a woman, approximately four inches high and stained a dark caramel color. She looks like a chess piece with a simplified form, a small head, an angular chest without arms, and a cone–shaped skirt. Behind her are three thin, rectangular slabs of wood about six inches high and two inches wide, which stand perpendicular to the platform and are about two inches apart from each other. They are painted beige and look like doors without doorknobs. Attached to right side of each one is a thin stick that extends up past it, to create the outer frame of the room.

Behind the triangular–shaped room and to the right, there’s a tall thin room about two feet high, made of four sticks of varying heights. The two sticks on the left are slightly bent, making the structure look vaguely unstable. Wrapped around the four sticks near the top of the room is a strand of intertwined string and wire forming a distorted rectangle that resembles the top of a tower.

Attached to the front right side of the tower is a thin, rectangular piece of wood painted beige and oriented vertically. It’s about 4 inches tall and is raised about four inches from the base. A small rounded ledge protrudes forward from the bottom edge, parallel to the base. A peculiar wooden object, the same caramel color, sits atop the ledge. The object is about the size and shape of a shoehorn and has a small ball, about the size of a large gumball, at its base. Directly in front of these objects, a thin piece of glass hangs horizontally, parallel to the base, like a catwalk. It’s about the size of a standard six–inch ruler and is suspended by two U–shaped wires.

On the right side of the house is a square room with a large upright rectangular cage inside it. A slightly s–curved wooden spinal column, about five inches long, with articulated vertebrae, is suspended vertically down from the top of the cage. Above the room with the cage is a frame approximately four inches square. Displayed within it is a wooden skeleton of a winged creature. Just a few inches in height, it’s suspended from either wing to the top of the square framework.

Narrator 1: To hear the Collection Tour audio on this work, press 5–2–8.

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