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Modern and Contemporary Art
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Artist: Alberto Giacometti, Swiss, 1901–1966

Mains tenant le vide (Hands Holding the Void)



156.2 × 34.3 × 29.2 cm (61 1/2 × 13 1/2 × 11 1/2 in.)
Anonymous gift
This original plaster sculpture is the first known example of a complete representational human figure in Alberto Giacometti’s oeuvre. Created during the seven-year period of the artist’s association with the Surrealists, the stylized female figure exists in an imaginary space defined by a series of abstract framing devices. The large, detailed eyes recall the visionary figuration of Byzantine mosaics. Poised precariously on the edge of a mystical experience, the figure remains suspended in a state of temporal confinement. Despite this tension, the long, expressive hands emerge from the frame, offering a metaphysical void for the viewer’s consideration.
On view
20th century

Martica Sawin, Matta: Five Decades of Painting, exh. cat. (New York: Pace Gallery, 2009), 11, fig. 6.

Julien Levy, Memoir of an Art Gallery (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2003), 156–59.

Casimiro Di Crescenzo, ed., Alberto Giacometti: Sculture, Dipinti, Disegni (Florence: Artificio, 1995), 94–95, ill.

John Hollander and Joanna Weber, eds., Words for Images: A Gallery of Poems (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), ill.

John Finlay, “”Now the Void”: Reconsidering Giacometti’s “Hands Holding the Void”; Invisible Object,” Burlington Magazine 156, no. 1340 (November 2014): 749–56.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.