Lot 9
  • 9

Giorgio de Chirico

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Giorgio de Chirico
  • Il vaticinatore
  • signed and dated 1914
  • oil on canvas
  • 60 by 46cm.; 23 5/8 by 18 1/8 in.


Galleria dello Zodiaco (Linda Chittaro), Rome
Galleria Gissi, Turin
Galleria Nuova Gissi, Turin
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998


Rome, Galleria dello Zodiaco, Beckmann, Braque, Dali, de Chirico, Ernst, Laurencin, Picasso, Severini, Vlaminck, 1944 (titled Vaticinatore con torre rosa and as dating from circa 1940)
Turin, Galleria Gissi, I protagonisti, 1982
Milan, Galleria Philippe Daverio, Giorgio de Chirico. I temi della metafisica, 1985, no. 28, illustrated in the catalogue


Claudio Bruni Sakraischik, Catalogo Generale Giorgio de Chirico, vol. VIII, Milan, 1987, no. 748, illustrated
Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, De Chirico. Gli anni Trenta, Milan, 1995, no. 55, illustrated in colour (titled Vaticinatore (con torre rosa) and as dating from circa 1938)

Catalogue Note

Il vaticinatore is a remarkable example of one of de Chirico’s most intriguing themes, that of the seer. It was a theme of particular interest to the great James Thrall Soby, the critic and connoisseur whose support and scholarship was instrumental in fortifying de Chirico’s international reputation - and whose important bequest to The Museum of Modern Art in New York included two major examples of this subject, The Seer (1914-1915) and The Double Dream of Spring (1915). The present work marks a return to this theme, first conceived by the artist in 1914, showing a monumental figure at an easel in a vertiginous piazza, and saturated with de Chirico’s distinctive atmosphere of simultaneous nostalgia and premonition. De Chirico clearly identified with the character of the seer, and by positioning this character in front of an easel - taking stock of the vision that has materialised on the blackboard in front of him - he makes a poignant comparison between the viewer and subject and their shared concerns. This is not simply a picture within a picture in the art historical tradition of studio paintings. Here de Chirico is drawing our attention to the process of the artist, asking the viewer to contemplate the genesis of an artwork as a melting pot of memory, inspiration and divination. He is relating the artwork to the prophecies of a seer; both starting with a blank canvas so to speak, both seeing something and going beyond it. In fact this notion of finding a second meaning in things is at the heart of both the seer and de Chirico’s mission, and a notion which had a profound influence on Surrealism.

The seer of the present work, who resembles the faceless mannequins that populate so many of the artist’s paintings, is joined by those other protagonists of de Chirico’s world: the empty piazza, the red tower, not forgetting the looming shadow of an unseen statue. De Chirico urges us to consider the tangible and intangible with equal importance and his lifelong exploration of absence explains his fascination with shadows, silhouettes, emptiness and silence, which result in the unique and sometimes suffocating atmosphere of his scenes. Discussing the influence of Nietzsche and the fundamental role of mood in his painting, de Chirico described ‘the strange and profound poetry, infinitely mysterious and solitary, which is based on the Stimmung (I use this this very effective German word which could be translated as atmosphere in the moral sense), the Stimmung, I repeat, of an autumn afternoon, when the sky is clear and the shadows are longer than in summer, for the sun is beginning to lower’ (The Memoirs of Giorgio de Chirico, London, 1971, p. 55).

Building upon the self-referential theme of the genesis of an artwork and the artist’s process, the present work can also be considered a sort of celebration of perspective, or rather a parody of it. Many critics have remarked upon de Chirico’s resurrection of fifteenth-century perspective as a feature of his supposed classicism, overlooking the irrational and peculiarly twentieth-century character of his particular version, whose multiple and distorted vanishing points undermine any hoped-for stability. As William Rubin has argued, ‘Renaissance perspective projects a space that is secure and eminently traversable. De Chirico’s tilted ground planes, on the contrary, produce a space that, when not positively obstructed, is shallow and vertiginous’ (William Rubin, ‘De Chirico and Modernism’, in De Chirico (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1982, p. 58). The present work, with its steep orthogonal ground lines and conflicting vanishing points, is a remarkable example of the way de Chirico deliberately undermined traditional linear perspective. This approach was used by many Surrealist artist, such as Leonora Carrington, with the effect of creating a sense of an esoteric, perplexing space.

The more rational perspective, created by the diagrammatic arcades that appear on the blackboard, contrasts with and accentuates the vertiginous and disorientating character of the piazza floor orthogonals, which appear to tilt the seer and easel to the front of the picture-plane, right up close to the viewer.  The fact that the blackboard image of arcades does not correspond to the red tower landscape in front of the artist/seer is a further reminder to the viewer of the role of memory and disparate elements in de Chirico’s artistic process. In the words of Ardengo Soffici, ‘The painting of de Chirico could be defined as the writing down of dreams. By means of almost infinite rows of arches and facades, of extended straight lines, of gigantic masses of simple colours, of almost funereal darks and lights, he truly succeeds in expressing that sensation of vastness, of solitude, of immobility, of stasis which certain sights reflected by the state of memory sometimes produce in our mind, just at the point of sleep’ (Ardengo Soffici, ‘De Chirico e Savinio’, in Lacerba, 1st July 1914, translated from the Italian).