Lot 121
  • 121

Giorgio de Chirico

300,000 - 500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Giorgio de Chirico
  • Piazza d'Italia
  • Signed g. de Chirico (lower left); signed Giorgio de Chirico and inscribed by another hand (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 23 3/4 by 31 in.
  • 60.3 by 78.7 cm


Galleria La Barcaccia, Rome
Florence Art Gallery, Florence
Acquired from the above in 1963


Claudio Bruni Sakraischik, ed., Catalogo Generale, opere dal 1951 al 1971vol. III, Milan, 1971, no. 389, illustrated n.p. 

Catalogue Note

Representing one of the most iconic images of de Chirico's art, Piazza d'Italia depicts an enigmatic, desolate urban setting, its eerie quality characteristic of his metaphysical paintings. Born in Volos, Greece, to Italian parents, de Chirico was surrounded by images of the antique world from early childhood. Classical mythology, history and architecture provided an endless source of inspiration for the artist, who often combined these subjects with the contemporary setting. In the present work, he combined the statue from classical antiquity and what resembles Renaissance architecture with a contemporary city scene, creating an image of a mystical and nostalgic quality. Piazza d'Italia belongs to a series of de Chirico's paintings of Italian city squares, most of which are conspicuously devoid of human presence. In the present work, three male figures are seen toward the background; two seem to be in dialogue clasping their hands in communication, but the lone figure seems to be completely isolated. Their bodies are oddly scaled-down in comparison to the architecture and to the large statue, and the painting retains the majestically quiet, enigmatic mood and timeless quality. As de Chirico would comment: “[My art is a] frightening astuteness, it returns from beyond unexplored horizons to fix itself in metaphysical eternity, in the terrible solitude of an inexplicable lyricism” (quoted in Paolo Baldacci, De Chirico, The Metaphysical Period 1888-1919, Milan, 1997, p. 326).

In the present composition, the center of the square is occupied by the statue of a sleeping, draped woman on a large pedestal, casting a long, dramatic shadow. This image was inspired by the antique sculpture of Ariadne, most probably one of the Roman copies of the lost Hellenistic statue, which the artist would have seen in Florence or in the Vatican. Asleep on the island of Naxos, where she had been abandoned by Theseus, Ariadne instills the entire composition with a dream-like atmosphere. Quoting the artist's own writing, James Thrall Soby explained how this general premise of melancholy, central to de Chirico's metaphysical paintings, was derived from the writing of Friedrich Nietzsche: "As to the derivation of the Italian squares or 'memories of Italy,' the artist gives due credit to Nietzsche by describing in his autobiography what seems to him to have been the German philosopher's most remarkable innovation: 'This innovation is a strange and profound poetry, infinitely mysterious and solitary, based on Stimmung (which might be translated...as atmosphere), based, I say, on the Stimmung of an autumn afternoon when the weather is clear and the shadows are longer than in summer, for the sun is beginning to be lower...' There is no reason to doubt that Nietzsche's prose played a key part in stimulating the painter's interest in creating a poetic reconstruction of the dream-lit piazzas of Italy" (James Thrall Soby, Giorgio de Chirico, New York, 1955, pp. 27-28).