Aesthetically, the fortune teller is very similar to the prototype of the Trovatori series (1917). The famous figure of the Trovatori is an incarnation of the melancholic poet trapped in a mysterious reality. The Italian critic, Raffaele Carrieri suggested that the artist's interest in this curious, faceless subject was inspired by a play, Les chants de la mi-mort (The Chants of the Half-Dead), written by Chirico's brother and published in the Apollinaire arts magazine, Les soirées de Paris, in the summer of 1914. The play's protagonist is a "voiceless man, without eyes or face" (James Thrall Soby, Giorgio de Chirico, New York, 1966, p. 97). De Chirico himself confirmed that he was inspired by this play: "The idea of these large egg-shaped heads that you also see in my standing mannequins in the metaphysical style, came to me when I saw the replicas created by my brother who had the pseudonym, Alberto Savinio" (Elizabeth Cowling & Jennifer Mundy, On Classical Ground: Picasso, Léger, de Chirico and the New Classicism, 1910-1930, London, Tate Gallery, 1990, p. 81-82).
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 that inhabits many an artist's painting is joined by other protagonists from De Chirico's world: the empty square, the red tower and not forgetting the ominous shade of an invisible statue.
Building on the self-referencing theme of the genesis of a painting and the process of the artist, Il vaticinatore can also 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. Moreover, the arcades on the black board do not tally with the landscape of the red tower in front of the artist/fortune teller and are therefore a further reminder of the role of memory in the artistic process. Finally, the figure of the mannequin, popularised by De Chirico and the metaphysical painters, marks a return to the grandeur of classical Italian art, which attempts to question the value of objective perception and reveal the enigma of everyday life.
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