Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)

Natura morta

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
Natura morta
signed 'Morandi' (lower left); signed, dated and dedicated 'al Prof Vitale Bloch con amicizia e stima 8 aprile 1958 Morandi' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
12 x 13 7/8 in. (30.5 x 35.2 cm.)
Painted in 1958
Vitale Bloch, Paris, a gift from the artist in 1958, and thence by descent to the present owner.
L. Vitali, Morandi, Catalogo Generale, 1948/1964, vol. II, Milan, 1977, no. 1099 (illustrated).
Bern, Kunsthalle, Giorgio Morandi, October - December 1965, no. 92.

Lot Essay

Giorgio Morandi painted Natura morta in 1958, and on 8 April that year, gave it to his friend, the collector, author and dealer Vitale Bloch, writing a rare personal dedication on the reverse. This picture, then, is a tribute to the friendship between the pair. This picture has an incredibly elegant restraint: the three main visible vessels, two square bottles and a box which have a regular similarity of appearance, have been placed in close proximity to each other, forming an almost abstract progression that appears to prefigure some of the Minimal art that would come into existence during the following decade. However, as much as the vessels themselves, the gaps between them are the subject of Natura morta. Between the two square bottles, a shaft of colour is visible, hinting at the presence of another object behind them; meanwhile, it may only be the grey of shadow between the two right-hand elements, but it is impossible for the viewer to be certain. Morandi has deliberately played with his viewers, introducing tensions into the gaps, hinting at the fact that he is concealing as much as he is revealing. In this way, he introduces a sense of the hidden world that lurks behind his pictures, which after all serve as mysterious guides to our existence, to the fabric of our world. As Morandi himself explained in a rare radio interview the year before he painted Natura morta,

'I believe the educational task for the figurative arts, particularly at the present time, is to communicate the images and feelings that the visible world arouses in us. I think that what we see if the artists creation and invention, if he is capable of getting past those diaphragms, that is to say, those conventional images which place themselves between him and things. He remembered Galileo: the real philosophy book, the book on nature, is written in letters unknown to our alphabet. These letters are triangles, squares, circles, spheres, pyramids, cones and other geometric shapes' (Interview with Morandi, 'Voice of America, Presto Recording Corporation Paramus, New Jersey, 25 April 1957).

Morandi was intrigued by the works of other artists who had sought to express this sense of mystery through their figurative works, and in particular by the French eighteenth-century painter Chardin. Only two years before Natura morta was painted, Morandi made one of the three forays outside Italy of his entire life, visiting Winterthur on the occasion of an exhibition and also spending time in the Collection Reinhart there. Apparently, he was mesmerised by Chardin's picture of a boy making a house of cards. He spent a huge amount of time staring at the cards themselves, at Chardin's construction of that miniature edifice which is such a source of focus for both the boy and the viewer alike. The configuration of those cards, with their pale, rectangular surfaces, would resonate through a number of Morandi's still life compositions over the following years, especially where he used the square bottles which themselves appear to reference the cards themselves.

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