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Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Property of East Coast Collectors
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

Gladiatori

Details
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Gladiatori
signed 'G. de Chirico' (upper right)
oil on canvas
51 1/8 x 38¼ in. (130 x 97 cm.)
Painted in 1928
Provenance
Galerie l'Effort Moderne (Léonce Rosenberg), Paris.
Anon. sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 7 January 1953, lot 93.
Leonard Lesley, New York (acquired at the above sale).
By descent from the above to the present owners.
Literature
W. George, La grande peinture contemporaine à la collection Paul Guillaume, Paris, 1929, pp. 132-133.
C.B. Sakraischik, Catalogo generale Giorgio de Chirico, opere dal 1908 al 1930, Milan, 1974, vol. V, no. 334 (illustrated).
M. Fagiolo dell'Arco and P. Baldacci, Giorgio de Chirico, Parigi 1924-1929, Milan, 1982, p. 539, no. 212 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

In 1929, one year after the execution of the present work, de Chirico published his short metaphysical novel Hebdomeros. It was received by many Surrealists as a masterpiece of Surrealist writing.

E. Cowling and J. Mundy commented on the relationship between Hebdomeros and paintings of that period:

In this strange dream-like tale can be found many of the motifs that recur in his paintings, including the theme of gladiators. At one stage in their travels Hebdomeros and his companions found themselves in a vast room with a high ceiling, decorated in the style of 1880; the lighting and general atmosphere of the room, which was totally devoid of furniture, recalled the gaming room at Monte Carlo. In a corner, two gladiators wearing diving helmets were exercising half-heartedly under the bored gaze of a master, a pensioned ex-gladiator with a vulture-like eye and a scarred body. 'Gladiators! This word contains an enigma', said Hebdomeros in a low voice.' (E. Cowling and J. Mundy, On Classical Ground: Picasso, Léger, de Chirico and the New Classicism 1910-1930)

According to James Thrall Soby, there were three main reasons why de Chirico took to Classicism as the source of his inspiration; "the first of these was his absorption in the art of the past, stimulated by his post war studies in the great museums of Rome and Florence and by his discussion with Nicola Lochoff. The second may well have been his regard for Picasso, who, beginning in 1917, had alternately painted classical-realistic pictures and abstract works. Picasso's neo-classic painting and drawings undoubtedly were known to de Chirico and it is a significant if inconclusive fact that many of them were partly inspired by Picasso's trip to Rome in 1917 with Diaghilev's Russian Ballet. A third factor, accounting in good part for de Chirico's 1925-1928 paintings of ancient ruins, gladiators and wild horses, was his enthusiasm for Sir James George Frazer's travel account of classical Greece, published in French in 1923 as Sur les traces de Pausanias. The late Alberto Savinio once assured the writer [Frazer] that the painter had read the book with rapt attention, and indeed many of the latter's neo-classic pictures of the later 1920s might serve as illustrations of the Grecian scenes described by Frazer" (J.T. Soby, De Chirico, New York, 1955, p. 162).

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