Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more SOLD BY THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

Guerrieri e filosofi

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Guerrieri e filosofi
signed ‘G. de Chirico’ (upper left)
oil on board
25 5/8 x 21 1/8 in. (64.9 x 53.6 cm.)
Painted circa 1928
Léonce Rosenberg, Paris (negative no. 14-N-1073), by 1928 .
Valentine Gallery, New York, circa 1929.
Joseph Winterbotham, Chicago, by whom acquired by December 1936, and thence by descent.
Art Institute of Chicago, to whom bequeathed by the above in 1954.
Léonce Rosenberg's photo album, Giorgio de Chirico II, no. 1073, Fonds Léonce Rosenberg, Bibliotheque Kandinsky, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (; accessed 2017).
Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection, Chicago, 1961, p. 118 (titled 'Classical Figures').
A.J. Speyer, & C.G. Donnell, Twentieth-Century European Paintings, Chicago, 1980, no. 1D7, p. 37 (dated 'circa 1923-1928' and titled 'Classical Figures').
M. Cavesi & P. Picozza, Giorgio de Chirico, vol. 3, Opere dal 1913 al 1976, Falciano, 2016, no. 987, p. 97 (illustrated; detail illustrated on the cover).
Chicago, Arts Club, Exhibition of the Joseph Winterbotham Collection, December 1936, no. 9 (titled 'Warriors').
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. These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Sale room notice
Please note that the following work has been included in the most recent volume of the catalogue raisonné of the works of Giorgio de Chirico published by the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico:
M. Cavesi & P. Picozza, Giorgio de Chirico, vol. 3, Opere dal 1913 al 1976, Falciano, 2016, no. 987, p. 97 (illustrated; detail illustrated on the cover).

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Lot Essay

This work is sold with a photo-certificate from the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, Rome.

‘“Here we are!” said Hebdomeros, throwing his arms out in front of his companions, in the classic pose of a captain prudently halting the charge of his men. They were coming to the threshold of a vast, high-ceilinged room, decorated in the style of 1880; the lighting and general atmosphere of this room, which was completely bare of furniture, reminded one of the gaming rooms at Monte Carlo; in a corner two gladiators wearing diving helmets were practicing half-heartedly, watched by a bored instructor, a retired gladiator with eyes like a vulture and a body covered with scars. “Gladiators!’ There’s an enigma in that word,’ said Hebdomeros, speaking in a low voice to the younger of his companions. And he thought of the music halls whose brightly lit ceilings conjure up visions of Dante’s paradise; he also thought of those afternoons in Rome, when the games would be over for the day and the sun sinking lower in the sky, the immense canopy over the arena augmenting the evening shadows, and smells floating up from the sawdust and blood-soaked sand...Vision of Rome, when the world was young, Anguish at nightfall a sailor’s song’ (Giorgio de Chirico, 1929, quoted in Hebdomeros, Cambridge, 1992, p. 3).

Belonging to the Art Institute of Chicago since 1954, Guerrieri e filosofi (Warriors and Philosophers) is one of a dramatic series of gladiatoral paintings that appeared regularly in De Chirico’s work during the late 1920s and early 1930s. These mysterious paintings depicting strange, almost comic, claustrophobic battles between gladiators and other classical figures inside a bourgeois interior are a close echo of various scenes that appear in De Chirico’s famous 1929 novel Hebdomeros. This acknowledged masterpiece of Surrealist literature was a story in which the hero of the novel (a Ulysses like alter-ego of De Chirico named ‘Hebdomeros’) undertakes an apparently hallucinatory or dream-like Odyssey through a bizarre Mediterranean world beyond time. Throughout the novel, the hero encounters a series of strange apparitions and events in which the worlds of classical antiquity and of 1920s normality are frequently intertwined. The sudden appearance of fighting gladiators struggling in drawing rooms or becoming petrified on railway stations and squabbling in corners occurs throughout the novel. Like many aspects of De Chirico’s tale these figures represent the apparent collision of two disparate realities clashing to form a new metaphysical realm outside of conventional time and place. De Chirico defined this realm as that of the ‘enigma’. ‘The enigma of this magnificent group of warriors, who in one corner of a room formed a polychrome block immobile in its gestures of attack and defence,’ De Chirico wrote, however, was one ‘basically only understood by (Hebdomeros) himself’ (Giorgio de Chirico, Hebdomeros, 1929, cited in M. Holzhe, Giorgio de Chirico, Cologne, 2005, p. 78).

Much the same can be said of De Chirico’s paintings of gladiators from this same period for, although they are clearly a part of de Chirico’s classical Mediterranean world of metaphysical mystery and magic, their purpose or function is less clear. Despite the often furious complexity and violence of their battling, in de Chirico’s hands the futility of their struggle is always accentuated and these warriors often appear as comic, pathetic or bizarrely irrelevant figures. Strangely, they often seem less animate in many ways, than the horses and ruins on De Chirico’s beaches or the tragic mannequin poets or architectonic philosophers embedded in thought in their armchairs. The origin of De Chirico’s gladiators lies in a series of large decorative panels which the artist made for the house of his dealer Léonce Rosenberg, where the Gladiatori took on the characteristic of architectural-type figures as opposed to human beings. There, groups of these statuesque-like figures became reminiscent of the bizarre collations of furniture in the landscape that de Chirico also frequently painted at this time.

It is this aspect of the Gladiatori that is explored in Guerrieri e filosofi, a work which combines the figures of warriors standing like statues conversing with figures of statue-like philosophers who appear to have become animated and transformed into flesh (a grisaille rendering of a statue or of a relief of a philosopher appears on the wall behind the two bearded and ‘living’ philosophers donning marble-like robes in the centre of the painting). These bearded figures are animate, corporeal counterparts to De Chirico’s mannequin-style philosophers who were usually faceless statuesque figures that the artist set into unusual domestic locations such as armchairs or bourgeois interiors in order to reinvigorate them. ‘Long ago we grew accustomed to seeing statues in museums’ De Chirico wrote in this respect: ‘To find newer and more mysterious properties we must have recourse to new combinations. For example: the statue in a bedroom, alone or in the company of living persons, could provide a new sensation especially if one sees to it that its feet, instead of standing on a pedestal, stand directly on the floor. Or one thinks of the impression made by a statue in a real armchair or leaning out a real window’ (Giorgio de Chirico, ‘Statues Furniture and Generals’, in G. de Chirico, Hebdomeros, Cambridge, 1992, pp. 243-244).

In this work, the statue-like philosophers and warriors have become one bizarre, collective entity compressed into the corner of a room like stacked furniture. Such ‘compact groups of philosophers and warriors’ created strange singular monuments, de Chirico pointed out in Hebdomeros. They became ‘veritable multi-headed blocks with bright and delicate colours [that] held mysterious confabulations in the corners of low-ceilinged rooms at the point where the cornice joining the walls to the ceiling formed a right angle’ (Giorgio de Chirico, 1929, quoted in J. De Sanna, De Chirico and the Mediterranean, New York, 1998, p. 248). At the same time each single figure in this work seems lost and isolated, their eyes all looking pensively in different directions. De Chirico stated that many of his Gladiatori from this period were often intended as a satire on the characters of the art world who, since his violent split with Breton and the Paris Surrealists in the mid-1920s, had also turned against him. Through the depiction of such epic classical figures of history now reduced to a motley crowd seemingly lost in the corner of a room, de Chirico evidently found a humorous means of both mocking his detractors and celebrating the classical tradition that he so loved.

As Waldemar George has also pointed out about these works in this respect, De Chirico, ‘like the sculptors of the Late Roman Empire…created a sense of space (an ideal space) out of the mere convergence of glances – the language of the eyes. His isolated figures have no relation to the exterior world […] They mark the abandoning of proportional norms and articulation. The relationships they establish among themselves acquire a magical meaning’ (W. George, 1930, quoted in J. De Sanna, De Chirico and the Mediterranean, New York, 1998, p. 258).

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