Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE PROPERTY OF AN ITALIAN GENTLEMAN
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole
signed 'g. de Chirico' (lower left)
gouache on board
10½ x 13¼ in. (26.6 x 33.8 cm)
Executed in 1922
Rino Valdameri, Milan.
Galleria del Secolo, Rome (no. 3140).
Galleria d'Arte Cairola, Milan.
Galleria d'Arte Nettuno, Bologna.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's London, 21 October 2002, lot 5.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
R. Carrieri, Giorgio de Chirico, Milan, 1942, no. VIII (illustrated).
M. Fagiolo dell'Arco, L'opera completa di De Chirico. 1908-1924, Milan, 1984, no. 189, p. 111 (illustrated; titled "Natura Morta" and dated 1923).
Acqui Terme, Palazzo Liceo Saracco, Vita Silente. Giorgio de Chirico: dalla Metafisica al Barocco, July - September 1997, no. 6 [illustrated p. 61; titled "Frutta su una tavola nel paesaggio (mele, agrume e nocciole)"].
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Anne Elisabeth Spittler
Anne Elisabeth Spittler

Lot Essay

The Fondazione de Chirico has confirmed the authenticity of this work, which is recorded in their archives under the number 57/1993.
A copy of the certificate and a letter from the Fondazione de Chirico are available upon request.

Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole ranks among Giorgio de Chirico's most refined 1920s still-life compositions. Under a fallen, or arranged, branch of an oleander, whose leaves have been infiltrated by what looks like a magnolia, a few pieces of fruit have been left abandoned on the edge of a bright, barren landscape. Despite the apparent simplicity of the subject-matter, de Chirico devised a subtle composition which looks back at the Old Masters while introducing a muted Metaphysical dimension to the genre. The parapet on which the assorted fruit lies - only just revealed in the corner - brings to mind Renaissance portraiture, in which sitters were formally represented behind a balustrade. Yet Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole is diffused with a singular, enigmatic atmosphere. The white drape on which the fruits rest extends till the horizon, merging with the landscape, deserted and primordial. While the Oleander leaves seem to have casually landed on the composition, carried by the wind, the tilted orange on the left introduces an endearing touch of formal untidiness to the picture.

Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole is executed with tempera on board. In this regard, the picture is representative of de Chirico's concerns and artistic interests of the time. Having attentively studied and at times even made copies after the Old Masters' works in Florence and Rome, de Chirico felt the urge to rediscover the techniques of tradition, and in particular tempera painting. In a letter sent to the Surrealists' leader André Breton in 1922 - the year Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole was executed - de Chirico explained: 'a problem has tormented me for almost three years: the problem of métier. (...) I have discovered (...) that the chronic and mortal malady of painting today is oil pigment, the oil believed to be the base of all good painting. (...) When I had comprehended that, I began with the patience of an alchemist to filter my varnishes, to grind my colours, to prepare my canvases and panels (...) I paint more slowly, it's true, but how much better!' (G. de Chirico, 'Letter to André Breton', pp. 219-221, in G. de Chirico, Hebdomeros, Cambridge, 1992, p. 220-221). The bright, dense colours of Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole are the result of de Chirico's rekindled passion and enthusiasm for an older tradition of painting.

Although the Surrealists would soon feel betrayed by de Chirico's sudden stylistic change, in the early 1920s the spell of his works still hovered over the Parisian group. In 1923, Paul and Gala Éluard went to Rome expressly to meet de Chirico, whose works they had started buying a few years earlier. On that occasion, they visited the II Rome Biennale where they bought several works exhibited by the artist, including some still lifes. The Éluards understood that these works were not mere tributes to the past, but expressed something subtler, and not completely removed from de Chirico's earlier Pittura Metafisica period. For de Chirico, in fact, works such as Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole presented humble, yet profound reflections on the metaphysical dimension of objects. 'While painting a still life', he wrote, 'a talented painter really depicts the silent life of the things created by nature or by man' (G. de Chirico, 'Le nature morte', pp. 476-480 in G. de Chirico, Scritti (1911-1945). Romanzi e Scritti critici e teorici, Milano, 2008, pp. 476-480). This conviction that the still life genre could indeed reveal the hidden, deeper life of the subjects represented brought de Chirico to rename the genre altogether, changing the Italian 'natura morta' (literally 'dead nature') into 'vita silente' ('silent life'). Works such as Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole, he argued, represent 'the silent life of objects and things, a calm life, with no noise and no movements, an existence that expresses itself through volume, forms and plasticity' (Ibid., pp. 476-480).

Painted on the verso of Vita silente di mele, arance e fragole is a portrait of the sculptor Quirino Ruggeri. That work was executed by Amerigo Bartoli, with whom de Chirico shared a studio in via Orti d'Aliberti in Rome in the early 1920s. The encounter of these three artists on the same canvas constitutes an unusual visual memento of the important years of the group Valori Plastici, to which these artists were all related.

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