Giovanni Giacometti
Bestie da soma (Beasts of burden), vers 1895

  • Giovanni Giacometti (Stampa, 1868 - Glion-sur-Montreux, 1933)
  • Bestie da soma (Beasts of burden), vers 1895
  • Blue pencil and Indian ink on paper, 32,4 x 25,6 cm
  • Acquisition, 1998
  • Inv. 1998-027
  • © Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne

In April 1895, Giovanni Giacometti was working on an ambitious painting he planned to show at the fourth national exhibition in Geneva the following year. As he explained in a letter to his friend and fellow painter Cuno Amiet, the work, now in the Bündner Kunstmuseum, Chur, featured metaphorical “beasts of burden” – young women employed to carry stone slabs up a very steep flight of steps on the slopes overlooking the river Maira. This drawing is not strictly speaking a preparatory sketch for the painting, but it does help identify the subject and pinpoint its location.

The drawing is roughed out in blue pencil, then filled in with brief, swift strokes of Indian ink that cover much of the surface of the paper. It depicts two wooden bridges across the Maira in Val Bregaglia. A closer look reveals three women on the path, almost completely hidden by the lush vegetation. They are young Italians who crossed the border every day to carry great rectangular slabs of stone from the quarry outside the village of Promontogno for use in the building trade. The women are bent forward, heads lowered, hands behind their backs as if to help bear the weight of the slabs: it is back-breaking labour. The high angle lets the artist highlight the difficulty of their long trudge up the path from the quarry. Throughout his artistic career, Giacometti depicted the landscapes, workers, and people of his home region, the upper Engadine and Val Bregaglia.


Viola Radlach, Cuno Amiet Giovanni Giacometti Briefwechsel, Zurich, Scheidegger & Spiess, 2000.

Paul Müller and Viola Radlach, Giovanni Giacometti. Werkkatalog der Gemälde, vol. II-I, Zurich, Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, 1997, p. 148-149.

Remo Maurizio, « Indagini su vecchie cave e miniere in Bregaglia », Quaderni grigionitaliani, n° 41, 1972, p. 81-94.