Giuseppe Penone

During FIAC 2019, the Palais d’Iéna, the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council had invited Giuseppe Penone to exhibit his work in its great hypostyle hall. For his first exhibition in Paris since 2013, organized in collaboration with Marian Goodman Gallery, the artist was presenting his monumental work Matrice di Linfa  accompanied by two new sculptures created especially for the exhibition. In the making of Matrice di Linfa, Penone intervened in the history of a fir tree by removing eighty rings of its growth. The work is emblematic of the CESE’s commitment to the environment and celebrates the 80th anniversary of Auguste Perret’s architectural masterpiece.

Matrice di Linfa

Giuseppe Penone considers Matrice di Linfa as a shape with an animal force. It also evokes an open book, a ‘long sacrificial altar’ or ‘a long and thin boat sailing back and forth in the space, pushed by the strength of its branches.’

The sculpture of two parts, each 20 meters long, made from a fir tree found in the Vallée des Merveilles in the French Alps, resulted from a multiplicity of gestures, typical of Penone’s practice. After having cut the fir tree in half length ways Giuseppe Penone removed wood from the trunk, and following the growth rings, extracted part of the tree’s memory.

A red vegetal resin, resembling the tree’s sap, was poured into the central cavity, in which the artist placed terracotta elements bearing imprints of his own body. The fir tree’s branches, which grew season by season, now support the trunk, resting on large carpet of leather.


Matrice de Linfa , a work so emblematic of Giuseppe Penone, embodied the connection between the artist and the tree. The sculpture became a “matrix” condensing the essence of his sculptural practice. It was first exhibited 10 years ago at the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris.

Pensieri di Foglie

At the Palais d’Iéna, Matrice di Linfa was exhibited for the first time with two sculptures from the Pensieri di Foglie series (2014 – 2017). The works are installed either side of the central columns, near the space between the two parts of the tree where visitors are invited to walk. The branches and leaves in bronze created by the artist combined with naturally sculpted stones from a riverbed, form together an anthropomorphic silhouette. As with Matrice di Linfa , the works Pensieri di Foglie  reveal the history preserved within the materials and evoke the interdependence of man and nature.

photos: Rebecca Fanuele © Palais d’Iéna