Harry Bertoia, ‘Untitled (Gong Pendant)’, circa 1970, Sotheby's
Harry Bertoia, ‘Untitled (Gong Pendant)’, circa 1970, Sotheby's

Dimensions: 4 7/8 x 4 1/8 in. (12.5 x 10.5 cm) high excluding upper ring

From the Catalogue:

"Harry Bertoia's jewelry denotes a pivotal moment in his artistic development, both practically and intellectually. As a boy in San Lorenzo, Italy, Bertoia began his training in drawing and painting, which he continued after immigrating to Detroit, Michigan. He had already started experimenting with jewelry-making by the time he enrolled at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1937. Cranbrook's multidisciplinary approach allowed Bertoia to investigate and work in a variety of media, but he quickly found his niche in metalcraft. He focused on making housewares and jewelry, and after just two years he was appointed to run the metalcraft department.

It was around this time that Bertoia met Brigitta Valentiner, a Cranbrook student and daughter of Wilhelm Valentiner, who was then the director of the Detroit Institute of Arts. His relationship with the Valentiners had a profound impact on Bertoia personally and creatively: he and Brigitta married in 1943, and she and her art historian father played a significant role in introducing Bertoia to modern abstract art. In particular, the expressive, spontaneous, and graphic work of Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee resonated with Bertoia. He interpreted this inspiration in his jewelry creations, experimenting with contour, composition, and graphic decoration.

Working on a small scale enabled Bertoia to hone his metalworking skills and innovate new techniques that would inform his later work. Referencing Kandinsky and Klee, he took an improvisational approach to his creative process. For example, for some jewelry pieces he would cast gold or silver directly on charcoal blocks, manipulating the surface of the metal as it cooled, much like the technique later used for his larger-scale spill cast sculptures (see lots 15 and 20). As a subset, Bertoia's jewelry presents a survey of some of the most important tenets of his wider oeuvre, including his commitment to craft, the diversity of forms, metals, and techniques in which he worked, and his astonishing integration of sculpture, graphic lines, and inspiration drawn from nature.

From 1943 until 1947, Bertoia exhibited his jewelry alongside his monoprints at Nierendorf Gallery in New York, after which point his jewelry production all but stopped. Pieces made post-1947, such as lots 24 and 25, were special productions. In this case, Bertoia produced and then bartered these pieces with one of his metal suppliers, and they have remained in the recipient's family since the period."

—Courtesy of Sotheby's

In Nature's Embrace: The World of Harry Bertoia, exh. cat., Reading Public Museum, Reading, 2006, p. 50 (for a related model)
Bent, Cast & Forged**: The Jewelry of Harry Bertoia, exh. cat., Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, 2015, pl. 31 (for a related example)

Acquired directly from the artist by Harry Bertoia's metal supplier
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About Harry Bertoia

Harry Bertoia’s oeuvre encompasses sound sculptures, furniture, and jewelry design. A successful designer at the mid-century furniture company Knoll, Bertoia famously designed their “Diamond chair”, a delicate and airy steel-framed chair introduced in 1952 and still sold today. He would later devote his artistic energy towards innovative sculpture, finding ways to bend and stretch metal so that when crossed with wind or touch, it would create different sounds. Many of Bertoia's “tonal sculptures” were commissioned for established institutions and as public art displays. He has also performed concerts with these pieces, even recording a series of albums known as “Sonambient” music. From a young age Bertoia was friends with other prominent designers such as Walter Gropius and Ray and Charles Eames, and he regularly designed jewelry for his friends.

Italian-American, 1915-1978, San Lorenzo, Italy

Solo Shows

New York,
Bertoia: The Sonambients

Group Shows

Abstract Expressionism Meets Modern Design
AbExArt 3D

Fair History on Artsy

Moderne Gallery at Design Miami/ 2017
Moderne Gallery at The Salon Art + Design 2017
View Artist's CV