James Johnson Sweeney, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York from 1952 to 1960, visited Alberto Burri‘s Roman studio on Via Margutta in 1953.

He was one of the artist’s first and most loyal supporters, bringing three of Burri’s works into the Guggenheim Collection and writing his first monograph in 1955.

To thank him, in late 1953 Burri began donating small works to the Sweeney family each Christmas, and the family kindly returned the works after Sweeney’s death.

Even in their tiny format (the largest is about 10×20 cm), each of the 16 miniatures displays canons of proportion and an expert use of the material both compositionally, to perfectly balance shapes within the pictorial space, and pictorially, since the material becomes expressive based on its color and superficial traits.