Lot 6
  • 6

Giorgio de Chirico

900,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • Giorgio de Chirico
  • Interno con frutta
  • signed G. de Chirico (upper right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 129.5 by 97cm.
  • 51 by 38 1/8 in.


Galerie de l'Effort Moderne (Léonce Rosenberg), Paris
Nicola Mobilio, Florence (1972)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the early 1970s


London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, First Exhibition in England of Paintings by Giorgio de Chirico, 1928, no. 12 (titled Nature morte antique and as dating from 1928)


Osbert Sitwell, 'The Art of Chirico', in Drawing and Design, no. 28, October 1928, illustrated p. 269 (titled Nature morte antique and as dating from 1928)
Frank Rutter, Apollo, 1929, p. 207
Bulletin de l'Effort Moderne, Paris, 1929, no. 40 (titled Nature morte antique and as dating from 1928)
Giuseppe Maria Lo Duca, Dipinti di Giorgio De Chirico: 1912-1932, Milan, 1945, illustrated pl. XXX (titled Natura morta antica and as dating from 1928)
Claudio Bruni Sakraischik, Catalogo Generale Giorgio de Chirico, Milan, 1972, vol. II, no. 142, illustrated (as dating from 1926)
Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco & Paolo Baldacci, Giorgio de Chirico, Parigi 1924-1929, Milan, 1982, no. 55, illustrated p. 495; pl. XXVII, illustrated in colour p. 429 (titled Nature morte antique and as dating from 1927)
De Chirico – gli anni Venti (exhibition catalogue), Palazzo Reale, Milan, 1987, illustrated p. 196 (titled Nature morte antique and as dating from circa 1927)
Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Giorgio de Chirico. Gli anni Trenta, Milan, 1995, fig. 6, illustrated p. 82 (titled Nature morte antique and as dating from circa 1927)


The canvas is unlined. There is a small line of retouching and two small spots of retouching in the background, towards the top of the right edge, visible under ultra-violet light. There are some tiny spots of paint loss on the extreme right turnover edge. Apart from some very slight stable craquelure and some slight paint shrinkage, due to the rich impasto, this work is in very good condition. Colours: In comparison with the printed catalogue illustration, the grey tones are more neutral and less purple in the original, and the colous are overall richer and more varied.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Painted during De Chirico's stay in Paris in the 1920s, Interno con frutta is a stunning and monumental example of the 'Classical' period of his art. The end of his metaphysical phase is marked by the apparition of the subject of still-life, representing for the artist both a return to the physical world and a direct reference to the classical tradition. Although he treated this subject earlier in his career, particularly between 1912 and 1915, it was really during the 1920s that still-life found full flourish in De Chirico's oeuvre. During this time he turned his focus away from the mechanical elements of his earlier works to embrace a poetic style inspired by the antique vision which had fascinated him since his childhood years in Greece. According to James Thrall Soby, there were three principal factors underlying de Chirico's return to classicism. 'The first of these was his absorption in the art of the past, stimulated by his postwar studies in the great museums of Rome and Florence and by his discussion with Nicola Lochoff. The second may well have been his regard for Picasso who, beginning in 1917, had alternately painted classical-realistic pictures and abstract works. Picasso's neo-classic painting and drawings undoubtedly were known to de Chirico [...]. A third factor, accounting in good part for de Chirico's 1925-1928 paintings of ancient ruins, gladiators and wild horses, was his enthusiasm for Sir James George Fraeser's travel account of classical Greece, published in French in 1923 as Sur les traces de Pausanias' (J. T. Soby, Giorgio de Chirico, New York, 1966, p. 162).


De Chirico's painting of the 1920s is also characterised by a distinctive style based on destabilising traditional rendering of space and perspective. In the present composition, the bust and fruit which appear to rest on a tabletop occupy an otherwise plain room, while the interior is invaded by the ruins of a classical temple seen through the opening in the wall. The sharp lines that define the space serve to parody and undermine the stylistic origin of De Chirico's works, which lie in the ordered rationality and simplicity found in the early 15th century Florentine masters, in particular Giotto and Paolo Uccello. These artists were among the first to deploy linear perspective to create an illusion of a deep, rationally ordered space, which resulted in the sense of solidity and balance of the art of this period. De Chirico's art is a subversive interpretation of this painterly technique, and by overturning its logic and order it attempts to communicate the bewildering dislocation of space and time that was a result of the technological, cultural and scientific advances of modern life.


Although by the mid-1920s De Chirico had moved away from his Surrealist style, Interno con frutta retains the eerie sense of displacement that had a great influence on the group of artists gathered around André Breton. The rationale behind these enigmatic groupings of seemingly mundane objects was the artist's wish to uncover the poetic and metaphysical possibilities that lay beneath the surface of everyday reality. As he explained in his 1919 article Sull'arte metafisica, 'Every object has two appearances: one, the current one, which we nearly always see and which is seen by people in general; the other, a spectral or metaphysical appearance beheld only by some rare individuals in moments of clairvoyance and metaphysical abstraction, as in the case of certain bodies concealed by substances impenetrable by sunlight yet discernable, for instance, by X-ray or other powerful artificial means' (G. de Chirico, 'Sull'arte metafisica', in Valori Plastici, vol. I, no. 4-5, April-May 1919, p. 16). De Chirico's search for a 'second identity' in objects has been interpreted, often by the Surrealists themselves, as a precursor of the Surrealist interest in the uncanny.


The exclusion of logical connections between the elements of the composition, as well as the emphasis on mood, are derived from the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, as De Chirico himself proclaimed: 'I had begun to paint subjects in which I tried to express that strong and mysterious feeling I had discovered in Nietzsche's books: the melancholy of beautiful autumn days, of afternoons, of Italian cities' (De Chirico, quoted in Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, 'De Chirico in Paris 1911-1915', in De Chirico, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, p. 42). In Interno con frutta, the classical Greek bust helps evoke this quality, its steady, empty gaze symbolic of 'the distant and cool breath of mythology, the immense masks of Olympian deities, who look without seeing beyond horizons and constructions of men, with that sweetly and ineffably ambiguous glance of one who knows there is nothing to know' (G. de Chirico, catalogue preface for the exhibition of work by Alberto Savinio at the Galleria del Milione, Milan, 1940). Images of classical sculpture and architecture are a recurrent motif in de Chirico's art, often juxtaposing remnants of antiquity with contemporary settings, and inducing his compositions with a timeless quality.