Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
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Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

Mobili nella valle

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Mobili nella valle
signed 'G. de Chirico' (lower right)
oil on canvas
38 x 51¼ in. (97 x 130 cm.)
Painted in 1927
Galerie l'Effort Moderne [Léonce Rosenberg], Paris (no. 985).
Adriano Pallini, Milan, by 1940.
Marta Pallini, by descent from the above.
Volker Feierabend, by 1983 and until at least 1987.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 16 October 2006, lot 210.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

Bulletin de l'Effort Moderne, Paris, no. 38, October 1927 (illustrated).
W. George, Chirico avec des fragments littéraires de l'artiste, Paris, 1928 (illustrated p. XXII).
V. E. Barbaroux & G. Giani, Arte Italiana Contemporanea, Milan, 1940 (illustrated pl. 45).
P. Baldacci & M. Fagiolo dell'Arco, Giorgio de Chirico. Parigi 1924-1929, dalla nascita del Surrealismo al crollo di Wall Street, Milan, 1982, no. 176, p. 530 (illustrated pl. XXII & p. 530).
C. Bruni Sakraischik, Catalogo generale Giorgio de Chirico, Opere dal 1908 al 1930, vol. I, Milan 1987, no. 77 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Gli anni Venti, Milan, 1987 (illustrated p. 148).

Milan, Palazzo della Permanente, Prima mostra d'arte moderna e trame contemporanee, Pittura moderna nelle collezioni di Maestri Sarti italiani, February-March 1967 (illustrated).
Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Giorgio de Chirico, July - August 1970.
Cologne, Ludwig Museum, on loan 1983-1987.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Mythos Italien: Wintermärchen Deutschland. Die Italienische Moderne und ihr Dialog mith Deutschland, March - May 1988, no. 80, p. 283 (illustrated, incorrectly dated '1928' and with incorrect measurements '81.5 x 100 cm.').
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Italian Art in the 20th Century, Paintings and Sculptures 1900-1998, January - April 1989, no. 74, p. 417 (illustrated).
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Arte italiana, Presenze 1900-1945, April - November 1989, p. 406 (illustrated).
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Arnold Böcklin, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Eine Reise ins Ungewisse, October 1997-January 1998, no. 133, p. 177 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Munich, Haus der Kunst, February - May 1998 and Berlin, Nationalgalerie, May - August 1998.
Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordheim-Westfalen, Die andere Moderne, De Chirico, Savinio, September - December 2001, no. 79 (illustrated p. 147); this exhibition later travelled to Munich, Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachlaus, December 2001 - March 2002.
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Lot Essay

In the countryside we saw two screens and a chair. It was the opposite of a ruin. Pieces of a future palace.’

Jean Cocteau, Opéra, quoted by Giorgio de Chirico in ‘Statues, Furniture, and Generals’, pp. 243-247, in G. de Chirico, Hebdomeros, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1992, p. 246).

Mobili nella valle is a remarkable example of Giorgio de Chirico’s long series of works depicting furniture in outdoor spaces, which the artist begun in the 1920s, inaugurating a new phase in his career, having already mesmerised the Avant-garde world with his Pittura Metafisica. Painted in 1927, Mobili nella valle depicts an incongruous group of items of domestic furniture: behind an inviting armchair, two bedheads and a dresser are disposed in the middle of a red, arid landscape, in which a few Classical ruins, visible in the background, create an anachronistic analogy.

Works such as Mobili nella valle had originated from a fortuitous vision de Chirico had encountered in the streets of Paris, in the early 1920s. The artist himself explained the terms of that peculiar origin:

'…my series of paintings called Furniture in the Valley was engendered by an idea that came to me one afternoon in Paris, as I was walking around Saint-Germain between Rue du Dragon and Rue du Vieux Colombier.
On the sidewalk, in front of a used furniture shop, I saw sofas, chairs, wardrobes, tables and a coat rack displayed there on the street. By finding themselves so removed from the sacred place in which man has always sought repose, the place that each of us calls home, these objects - the mere sight of which arouses feelings and sentiments that delve back to our deepest childhood - suddenly appeared solemn, tragic, even mysterious. (…) I immediately understood how I could take advantage of this vision, and I began painting furniture and corners of rooms, but set in the middle of vast and deserted Nature' (Giorgio de Chirico, ‘Some Perspectives on my Art’, pp. 248-254, in G. de Chirico, Hebdomeros, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1992, pp. 249-50).

Central to Mobili nella valle is the idea of displacement: because of their incongruous display outdoors, familiar furniture acquires new meaning, revealing a side to their being obscured until then by habit. This idea that objects – if perceived outside their normal context – could disclose deeper meanings had been crucial to de Chirico’s Pittura Metafisca, bearing a strong influence on the Surrealists, who became passionate flea market regulars, constantly on the lookout for unusual, forgotten and mysterious objects. By resorting to an image observed in front of a second hand shop, de Chirico was indeed seconding the Surrealists’ interest in the disregarded, old remnants of urban markets, developing further – though a new series of metaphysical images – the central idea of his earlier Pittura Metafisica.

Mobili nella valle was painted at the height of de Chirico's second sojourn in Paris during the 1920s, at a time when the artist – moving forward from the melancholic scenes of his Pittura Metafisica – started to invent a new set of imagery populated by roaming horses, gladiators, convoluted assembled ruins of classical architecture and a new lineage of mannequins, presented as poets, archaeologists and philosophers. Imbedded in these new works was a sense of nostalgia for Antiquity mingled with memories from de Chirico’s own childhood, which he spent in his native Greece. Although inspired by an unexpected sight in the street of Paris, Mobili nella valle resonates with de Chirico’s personal memories, which the artist would later elaborate into his own, personal mythology.

The vision of furniture in the street finds its very first precedent in de Chirico’s own childhood in Greece. In his memoirs the artist recalled: ‘… I recollect a series of earthquakes which occurred regularly every evening after sunset (…) the inhabitants of the district, including ourselves, carried their mattresses outside into a square in order to sleep in the open. On this occasion also the cook Nicola excelled himself in endless ways. He carried out mattresses, cases and even some furniture’ (G. de Chirico, The Memoirs of Giorgio de Chirico, London, 1971, p. 17). Departing from this early memory interviewed with the experience of earthquake, and the unexpected vision of the furniture in a street of Paris, de Chirico ultimately attributed to works such as Mobili nella valle a complex psychological dimension. The idea of domestic furniture surging into the middle of a desolate, mysterious expanse bestowed onto these objects an endearing, almost human dimension, which deeply fascinated de Chirico. He explained:

'Also very profound is the impression one would have of furniture placed in deserted lands, in the midst of infinite nature. Imagine an armchair, a divan, chairs grouped together on a plain in Greece, deserted and covered by ruins (…). The nature that surrounds this furniture reveals, by contrast, an aspect of it I did not know. Pieces of furniture abandoned in the wild are innocence, tenderness, sweetness amidst blind and destructive forces; they are children, pure virgins in the circus amidst rawboned lions; armoured with innocence they stand there, distant and solitary (…). For some time I have been obsessed by this aspect furniture has when placed outside of buildings; in some of my recent pictures, I have sought to express the emotion it inspires in me' (Giorgio de Chirico, ‘Some Perspectives on my Art’, pp. 248-254, in op. cit., pp. 245-6).

In Mobili nella valle, the abandoned pieces of furniture are presented with the same dignity of people, arranged closely together like in a family picture. In this regard, the picture resonates with one of the ideas of Savinio – De Chirico’s brother – who in one of his lithographs had transformed an armchair – poltrona, in Italian – into a ‘poltromamma’, an armchair that has acquired the features of his mother, emphasising the maternal feel of the object.

In de Chirico’s mind, the furniture depicted in Mobili nella valle ultimately came to symbolise a place inhabited by the ghosts of Greek tragedy. The contrast between the benevolent, domestic appearance of the objects and the harsh, untamed landscape provided the perfect backdrop to de Chirico’s whimsical re-interpretations of Greek mythology. In particular, he associated the image of works such as Mobili nella valle to the myth of Orestes pursued by the Furies: ‘Furniture outside of the home is, as I have already remarked, the temple in which Orestes rushes. At the threshold of this temple the Furies stop, powerless, and in the boredom of the wait, finish by falling asleep and snoring’ (Giorgio de Chirico, ‘Statues, Furniture, and Generals’, pp. 243-247, in G. de Chirico, Hebdomeros, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1992, p. 246). Taking its inspiration from an accidental urban encounter, Mobili nella valle ultimately introduces a new iconography to de Chirico’s eccentric reinvention of a personal mythology, written according to the terms of his unique artistic vision.

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