• Impressionist Modern Day Sale auction at Christies

    Sale 2217

    Impressionist Modern Day Sale

    4 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 298

    Giorgio De Chirico (1888-1978)

    Piazza d'Italia

    Price Realised  


    Giorgio De Chirico (1888-1978)
    Piazza d'Italia
    signed 'g. de Chirico' (lower left); signed again, titled and inscribed 'Giorgio de Chirico questa pittura metafisica: "Piazza d'Italia", è opera autentica, da me eseguita e firmata.' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    15 7/8 x 19¾ in. (40.3 x 50.2 cm.)

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    Contact the department

    The Fondazione de Chirico has confirmed the authenticity of this painting and have recorded it in their archives under the number 0043/10/09.

    The Piazza d'Italia is the most significant and repeated theme of de Chirico's oeuvre. Numbering over a hundred variants featuring Ariadne's sculpture alone, these enigmatic works formed an almost constant presence throughout his career, with their melancholic evening shadows and eerily empty squares evoking a sense of the mysterious reality that lies concealed behind the everyday. The symbolism of all these variants, which first appeared in a series completed between 1912 and 1913, is based on a synthesis of Greek mythology, Nietzschean philosophy and de Chirico's own life and experience. For the Greek-born, Italian painter the story of the abandoned princess, who had saved Theseus from the Minotaur and was later rescued herself by Dionysus, took on a rich metaphorical meaning. She not only represented the classical past of his homeland, but also signified his reading of Nietzsche's radical reinterpretation of the myth, which cast Ariadne as a symbol for the ascension of intuitive consciousness.

    According to de Chirico scholar Paolo Baldacci, the artist upheld Nietzsche's vision of Ariadne as a metaphor for the soul, "which, abandoned by Theseus--the hero of reason and logic--welcomes the superhero Dionysus, god of mysteries of earth and body" (Giorgio de Chirico, The Metaphysical Paintings, London, 1997, p. 138). The sad figure of Ariadne seen "endlessly contemplating her shadow," as de Chirico wrote in a 1912 poem entitled The Statue's Desire, therefore signifies a state of limbo, where she awaits the physical and spiritual awakening that would return her to a labyrinth of the unconscious. In this version of the Piazza d'Italia, de Chirico transports this classical subject into the industrial age, with a speeding train and an eternal meeting between two suited men in the distance. Like the slumbering Ariadne, these motifs are linked to de Chirico's metaphysics of anticipatory arrival, whilst the shadowy arcades of the surrounding buildings invoke the city of Turin, the location where Nietzsche went mad, making clear his affinity with the philosopher's voyage of the soul.

    This Piazza d'Italia was painted in Italy following a lengthy sojourn in New York for a string of successful exhibitions, and forms part of a deliberate project whereby de Chirico expressly revisited his old themes in the Post-War years. In a sense, this was a ritualistic tribute that displayed de Chirico's loyalty to his art and his beliefs, which lead to the story of Ariadne becoming subsumed within his own myth, where she is an emblem for the artist's quest for knowledge and the pursuit of art itself.


    Mr. and Mrs. Henry R. Luce, Ridgefield, Connecticut.
    Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York (circa 1965).

    Saleroom Notice

    The Fondazione de Chirico has confirmed the authenticity of this painting and have recorded it in their archives under the number 0043/10/09.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property of an Estate