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Contemporary Art

Three of a Kind: Giorgio de Chirico

By Sotheby's
Ahead of this spring's Impressionist and Modern Art and Collection Particulière Italienne sales, we take a closer look at three of Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings, which invite you to enter into the mysterious, dreamlike and poetic universe of the Italian artist.

The BAM – Musée des Beaux-Arts de Mons is currently (until June 2) hosting an exhibition dedicated to Chirico and the Belgian surrealist movement. It reminds us of the importance of the artist through 40 works, and his influence on three major figures in Belgian surrealism: René Magritte, Paul Delvaux and Jane Graverol.

1. Giorgio de Chirico, Il vaticinatore. Estimate €250,000-350,000

Il vaticinatore is a remarkable example of one of Chirico's most intriguing themes: the fortune teller.

In this painting, Chirico clearly identifies with the character of the fortune teller by placing this character in front of the easel. It is not simply to do with an image inside an image, a recurring motif in art history. Chirico also draws our attention to the artist's creative process and invites the viewer to contemplate the genesis of the artwork as a melting pot of memory, inspiration and premonition. He links the painting to the prophecies of a fortune teller: we must go beyond the blank canvas. Furthermore, the idea of searching for an object's double meaning is at the heart of the surrealists' mission.

This figure is joined by other protagonists from De Chirico's world: the empty square, the red tower and the ominous shade of an invisible statue.

The painting can be considered as a sort of celebration of perspective, or rather, a parody of it. In fact, the more rational perspective, created by the plan of the arcade on the black board, contrasts with and accentuates the vertiginous quality of the orthogonal lines of the piazza, which seem to tilt the fortune teller and the easel into the foreground

2. Giorgio de Chirico, Interno metafisico con officine. Estimate: €400,000 – 600,000

Interno metafisico con officine is from de Chirico's second Parisian period, articulating the strange sense of displacement the artist sought to create through his enigmatic groupings of disparate objects.

Infusing everyday objects and surroundings with a sense of the mysterious, Interno metafisico con Officine is a superb example of Giorgio de Chirico’s mature metaphysical paintings. It represents perfectly the artist's wish to uncover the poetic and metaphysical possibilities that lay beneath the surface of everyday reality.

Within the present work, the artist depicts a fantastical interior, crowded with familiar objects and curious geometrical forms.

De Chirico’s masterful juxtaposition of these elements in unexpected combinations challenges the viewer’s on the true nature of the objects themselves. Removed from their usual context, they become almost abstract in form and meaning.

Interno metafisico features an astonishingly distorted sense of perspective: objects are enclosed by a wall which could equally plausibly serve as floor or ceiling.

3. Giorgio de Chirico, Piazza d'Italia. Estimate: €180,000-250,000

Piazza d’Italia forms part of one of Giorgio de Chirico’s most iconic series of Metaphysical paintings, in which a curious collection of symbols and objects are juxtaposed within the setting of a quiet Italian square. Within the present composition, two male figures are seen towards the background, but with their bodies oddly scaled-down in comparison to the architecture and to the large statue. The centre of the square is occupied by the statue of a man, seen from the back and casting a long, dramatic shadow.

“Giorgio de Chirico expresses as no one else has done the poignant melancholy of the close of a beautiful day in an old Italian city where, at the back of a lonely piazza, beyond the setting of loggias, porticos, and monuments to the past, a train chugs […] or a soaring factory chimney sends smoke into the cloudless sky".
Ardengo Soffici

De Chirico first explored the motif of the Piazza around 1913 and 1914 and the artist continued to return to this fundamental theme throughout his career, finding constant inspiration.

Dating from the 1950s, the present work incorporates motifs such as the majestic tower dominating the square, the two figures greeting each other, and, omnipresent, the marble statue which serves as the focal point of the composition.

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