Filippo Luigi De Pisis (1896-1956)
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Filippo Luigi De Pisis (1896-1956)

Natura morta con bottiglia, bicchiere e piatto con carciofo

Filippo Luigi De Pisis (1896-1956)
Natura morta con bottiglia, bicchiere e piatto con carciofo
signed and dated 'De Pisis 35' (lower right)
oil on canvas
23 5/8 x 28¾in. (60 x 73cm.)
Painted in 1935
G. di San Lazzaro, Paris.
G. Briganti, De Pisis, Catalogo generale, opere 1908-1938, vol. I, Milan 1991, no. 1935 13 (illustrated p. 361).
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Lot Essay

A slender bottle of wine, a stout, half-full glass, and a sensually ripe artichoke, cast against a stained wall, are the protagonists of one of de Pisis' most mature still-lifes of the Parisian period.

Natura morta con bottiglia, bicchiere e piatto con carciofo (Still-life with bottle, glass and dish with artichoke) was executed in 1935, a very intense and fulfilling year for the artist, who had by then been in Paris for a decade. He left Rome for the French capital in March 1925; in 1930, after the first five nomadic and bohemian years, he found and apartment at 7 rue Servandoni, near Saint Sulpice, in the heart of the Latin Quarter - two small rooms, extravagantly decorated and full of his and Giorgio de Chirico's paintings - which became the meeting point for the Italiens de Paris. By the mid-1930s, de Pisis was exhibited and critically acclaimed in both Italy and France, and was strenghtening his ties with British avant-garde artists and their galleries. In January 1935 he participated, with a personal room where he showed 19 canvases, in the second Quadriennale d'Arte, a prestigious anthology of Italian contemporary art held every four years in Rome. In April of the same year, emboldened by his Italian success, he left to London, where he lived and shared the studio for three months with Vanessa Bell. The Zwemmer Gallery in Lichfield Street dedicated him a monographic exhibition, to which he lent thirty of his most recent paintings. This was de Pisis' second visit to London, and he was mesmerised by his 'rediscovery' of the Italian Trecento and Quattrocento masterpieces at the National Gallery. His passionate admiration for the altarpieces of his compatriots of the Scuola Ferrarese (Crivelli, Cosmé Tura, Francesco del Cossa) greatly influenced his own output in the mid 1930s. De Pisis had fallen under the spell of the 'Ferraresi' when he was just 20: in 1917 he had published a study on Fruits and Flowers in Ferrarese Painting (Fiori e frutti nella pittura ferrarese), in which he celebrated the exuberant, eccentric use of the object in the paintings of the Scuola Ferrarese. De Pisis' Quattrocento colleagues, whose lessons he distilled through the baroque still-lifes of the Neapolitans Recco and Ruoppolo, provided him with his artichokes, leaks, shells, half-decomposed fish... surreally depicted over isolated tables in half-lit interiors, or caught in a well-studied chaos against livid skies and rotten walls.

In De Pisis' Nature morte, everyday objects are the ultimate pictorial expression of the artist's emotions and ancestral desires, of his sublimated sexual instincts. At the source of his obsession for the objects, which one can read as the quintessential 'objects of desire' (see the catalogue of the exhibition Objects of Desire, New York 1997), is a double inspiration: on the one side, de Pisis' fascination with his art-historical roots; on the other, his interest in the poetics of the Scuola Metafisica, whose champions, the De Chirico brothers, he had met and befriended during their youth in Ferrara in the 1910s. De Pisis fused these two sources with the supreme sense of classical balance and chromatic richness he derived from his endless contemplation of Manet's oils, a pivotal influence on his art.
In the present still-life, all these different references find a unique synthesis. The palette is elegantly played on the contrast of the hot hues of the wine and the wood, against the cold, metallic grey of the tablecloth and the wall. The pigments are sumptuous, but decadently disintegrated, undone, fragmented on the canvas. The objects, enigmatically isolated, are solemnly disposed at the extreme end of the table, their disturbing physical presence capable of evoking aesthetical emotions which are so close to, yet intrinsically so far from, the perfect geometries of Morandi's still-lifes.


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