Pietro Consagra

Ritratto, 1961


43.5 × 3 × 33 cm

Edition size: 3

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By 1961, when ‘Ritratto’ was created, Consagra had long developed an engaging abstract visual vocabulary having been a founding member of the Italian movement Forma 1 (1947), which advocated a move toward abstraction as a means to realise the movement’s formal and Marxist reading of artistic practices. Consagra’s works on exhibition embody the singular vision of one of Italy’s most revered sculptors.

Pietro Consagra adopted a distinctive creative strategy conditioned by a philosophy of surface that is neither smooth nor volumetric, but constructed with juxtaposed or overlapping planes. With ‘Ritratto’, part of the artist’s series ‘Colloqui’ which he presented at the 1954 and 1956 Venice Biennales, Consagra establishes a tête-à-tête between the viewer and the sculpture through its direct frontalism.

‘Ritratto’, meaning ‘Portrait’ in Italian, embodies Consagra’s unique understanding of anti-rhetorical and anti-monumental devices, and is part of a series that established Conagra’s international reputation in the early 1960s.

the artist

Pietro Consagra (b.1920-d.2005) was one of Italy’s most renowned post-war sculptors whose work rejected the tradition of three-dimensional sculpture to embrace a more direct mode of interaction between art and audience.

Born in Mazara del Vallo in Trapani (Sicily), he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Palermo before founding the ‘Forma I’ group in 1947 in Rome, a formalist and Marxist collective which rejected the popular metaphysical romanticism and distortion of the time. Exhibiting at various galleries in Italy and taking part in the Venice Biennale eleven times between 1950 and 1993, Consagra enjoyed international acclaim, including exhibitions at the Peggy Guggenheim collection, Venice, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Gallery in London.

Primarily interested in liberating sculpture from the burdens of any historical legacy, Pietro Consagra worked in bronze and iron to create sculptures that were flattened and almost two-dimensional. In this way, he disposed of a normative authoritarian centre in favour of a frontal outlook that established a far more open ‘tete-a-tete’ between work and viewer. For Consagra, “placement became meaning”; his works used abstraction to expose meaning that would otherwise never have been revealed. From 1952, he established the ‘Colloqui’ series, a collection of bronze sculptures that were defined by the plasticity of their flattened surface: overlapping planes, gaps and varying texture destabilised any semblance of a ‘conventional’ viewpoint.

In the sixties, colour became an essential element of Pietro Consagra's sculpture. His ‘Transparent Irons’ series saw monochrome works of pink, violet, blue and crimson take on the issues of a frontal perspective by becoming mobile, rotating at the touch of a hand. Ultimately, the curving fragments and defiant colours of Consagra’s works were the most vital part of his rejection of traditional sculptural canons. In the words of the artist: “Art is the only way to keep oneself suspicious, susceptible, nervous, intolerant, evasive, enthusiastic, balanced, unbalanced, attentive, aggressive, lazy, imaginative, libidinous, free, ungraspable.” The tension that arises from these contradictions is what makes Pietro Consagra's works retain a psychological power for the audience to engage with.


In the words of the artist:Art is the only way to keep oneself suspicious, susceptible, nervous, intolerant, evasive, enthusiastic, balanced, unbalanced, attentive, aggressive, lazy, imaginative, libidinous, free, ungraspable.

Pietro Consagra
on Artuner

Part of the

November 3rd, 2016 until
November 10th, 2016
Curated by Eugenio Re Rebaudengo