Lot 56
  • 56

Giorgio de Chirico

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
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  • Giorgio de Chirico
  • Signed G. de Chirico (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 35 3/4 by 23 3/4 in.
  • 91 by 60.3 cm


René Berger, Paris (commissioned from the artist)

Comtesse Félix de Clinchamp, Paris (by descent from the above)

Juan Alvarez de Toledo, Paris (acquired from the above in 1983)

Galerie Cazeau-Béraudière, Paris

Acquired from the above


(possibly) Paris, Galerie de l'Effort Moderne (Léonce Rosenberg), Exposition d'oeuvres de Giorgio de Chirico, 1925, no. 8

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum (on loan 1965-83)

Marseille, Musée Cantini, Ils collectionnent, premier regard sur les collections privée d'art contemporain, 1985, no. 39

Paris, Didier Imbert Fine Art, Paris capitale des arts, 1989,  no. 8
New York, Paolo Baldacci Gallery, Giorgio de Chirico. Betraying the Muse. De Chirico and the Surrealists, 1994, no. 13 (as dating from 1924)

Zurich, Kunsthaus; Munich, Haus der Kunst & Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Arnold Böcklin, Giorgio De Chirico, Max Ernst. Eine Reise ins Ungewisse, 1997-98, no. 29 (as dating from 1917-24)

Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Passions privées, 1995-96, no. 2 (as dating from 1916)

Padua, Palazzo Zabarella, De Chirico, 2007, no. 26, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Giorgio de Chirico, La Fabrique des rêves, 2009, no. 42, illustrated in color in the catalogue


James Thrall Soby, The Early Chirico, New York, 1941, discussed p. 72, illustrated pl. 63 (as dating from 1916)

James Thrall Soby, Giorgio de Chirico, New York, 1955, discussed p. 120, illustrated p. 232 (as dating from 1916)

Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco & Paolo Baldacci, Giorgio de Chirico, Parigi 1924-1929, Milan, 1982, illustrated p. 158; no. 2, illustrated p. 479 (as dating from 1924-25)

Paolo Baldacci, De Chirico 1888-1919. La metafisica, Milan, 1997, no. A8, illustrated p. 420 (as dating from winter 1924)

De Chirico gli anni Trenta (exhibition catalogue), Galleria Dello Scudo, Verona, 1998-99, illustrated p. 144 (as dating from 1924-25)


Original condition. There are a couple of tiny specks in the lower right corner which may correspond to small losses. Elsewhere there is no restoration visible either under ultra-violet light or to the naked eye. This work is in excellent condition.
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.

Catalogue Note

Ettore e Andromaca is an outstanding example of De Chirico's celebrated metaphysical paintings, which marked the highpoint of his career and played a key role in the development of Surrealism. The subject of this work is taken from Homer's The Iliad, which De Chirico transformed into a meditation on love and war in the early 20th century. The present work belongs to a small group of oil paintings on this subject, that the artist began during First World War and continued into the 1920s, and its composition is closely related to a version painted in Ferrara in 1917 (see fig. 1).  According to the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, the artist completed the present work in the second half of the 1920s.  After seeing the present work over 65 years ago, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, told his colleague James Thrall Soby that it was "by far the most powerful of all Chirico's versions of this theme" (James Thrall Soby, op. cit., 1941, p. 72). Since then, it has come to be regarded as one of De Chirico's most successful metaphysical compositions. Writing at the closing of the 20th century, Paolo Baldacci considered de Chirico's rendering of Ettore e Andromaca to be among the artist's "greatest masterpieces" because it "exercised a profound influence on all of European art" (Paolo Baldacci, op. cit., p. 372).      

The term "metaphysical" had first been given to De Chirico's paintings in 1914 by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire and referred to the enigmatic quality of his urban landscapes. His paintings from 1914-15 took their inspiration from the spatial distortions of the Cubists and emphasised the deep recesses and angularity of Renaissance or Neo-Classical buildings and the ominously dark shadows that they cast across desolate piazzas. As in Le Duo (Museum of Modern Art, New York; fig. 2), the setting for these works was usually a city centre, oddly devoid of any life or populated only by inanimate objects. These uncanny scenes attempted to undermine the perceived realities of the everyday, an objective that drew upon an amalgam of the teachings of the German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schoppenhauer and Otto Weininger. In 1918, the Roman periodical Valori Plastici became the leading proponent of de Chirico's style of painting, calling it Arte Metafisica

Ettore e Andromaca expands on the aesthetic approach first devised in Paris in 1914-15, but technically it is more refined in its execution and bolder in its spatial manipulations. In comparison to the 1914-15 painting Le Duo, the present work is much more sharply focused on the physical details and angularity the figures and the complexity of their interaction. This shift in the artist's approach came about towards the end of the war in 1917. He had spent a significant part of that year recuperating from a nervous illness at a military hospital on the outskirts of the city, and it was here that he encountered the Futurist artist Carlo Carrà, who worked very closely with him during this period of convalescence. The fruitful relationship and strong mutual influence between the two artists are evident in the choice of subject matter and painterly style of Carrà's works from this period, such as L'Ovale delle apparizioni of 1918 (fig. 3). Having firmly established his iconography, which included architecture, classical sculpture, dressmaker's mannequins, and other inanimate objects, in the following years De Chirico continued working on his highly stylised compositions. Among his works on the subject of mannequins, he produced two major series: that depicting a couple, such as the present work, and that with a single figure, titled Il Trovatore (fig. 4).

By the time he completed the present work, De Chirico had codified his metaphysical paintings so that the mannequin had become its ultimate symbol. In his discussion of Ettore e Andromaca, Paolo Baldacci wrote: "The mannequins have reached their definitive, canonical form: they are constructed of stitched fabric, geometrical elements, set-squares and breast-plates, apparently of wood. They are both more fascinating and less 'inhuman' than those of 1914-15" (ibid., p. 372). In Ettore e Andromaca, the inanimate beings are the personification of two lovers of Homer's great epic, The Iliad. The scene depicted here is the last meeting between the Trojan warrior Hector and his wife Andromeda before he departs for his final, ill-fated battle. This poignant last moment between two lovers during wartime held great meaning at the end of the First World War. Combining the mechanised aesthetic with the metaphysical space in which the scene is taking place, the subject of this work established not only one of the most enduring themes of De Chirico's painting, but also played a crucial role in the development of Modern Art.

Fig. 1, Giorgio de Chirico, Ettore e Andromaca, Autumn 1917, oil on canvas, Private Collection 

Fig. 2, Giorgio de Chirico, Le duo, Winter 1914-15, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 

Fig. 3, Carlo Carrà, L'Ovale delle apparizioni, 1918, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome

Fig. 4, Giorgio de Chirico, Il Trovatore, Autumn 1917, oil on canvas, Private Collection