Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, ROME
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

Le muse inquietanti

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Le muse inquietanti
signed 'G. de Chirico' (lower left)
oil on canvas
38 1/8 x 25 7/8in. (97 x 66cm.)
Painted in 1962
Generale Martini, Turin, by 1972.
Private Collection, Italy.
Private Collection, Brescia, by whom acquired circa 1980.
Anon. sale, Christie's Milan, 28 November 2006, lot 334.
Private Collection, Rome.
C. Bruni Sakraischik, Catalogo Generale Giorgio de Chirico, vol. III, Opere dal 1951 al 1971, Milan 1972, no. 407 (illustrated, unpaged).
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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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Lot Essay

‘The picture attracts and repels, beguiles and frightens, conveys a warm nostalgic aura but at the same time suggests an impending catastrophe. There is no action; the piazza is still; the figures wait’.
J.T. Soby

In Le muse inquietanti (Disquieting Muses) Giorgio de Chirico revisits one of his most famous and enduring subjects, which he had first explored at the height of his metaphysical period. Set on a stage-like wooden platform in front of the red-bricked Castello Estense in Ferrara, a group of classically inspired mannequins stand, their dark shadows heightening the plunging perspective of this compellingly enigmatic and perplexing scene. The artist had first introduced the Le muse inquietanti to his paintings while stationed in Ferrara during the First World War, originally entitling the work Le vergini inquietanti (Disquieting Virgins). However, he later altered the title, identifying the figures as the Muses: the mythological figures, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne and goddesses of inspiration in knowledge and the arts.

The strangely adorned figures are composed of modern day mannequin heads, and stiff, classical bodies, which distort their mythological identity, rendering their role in the painting indecipherable and obscure. These disquieting muses occupy an equally unfathomable setting: the juxtaposition of the mythological past with the theatrical yet eerily modern world creates a surreal scene of hidden meanings and mysterious signs, an encapsulation of de Chirico’s Metaphysical work. James Thrall Soby, one of the earliest scholars of the artist’s work, wrote of the enduring captivation of the Le muse inquietanti: ‘The picture attracts and repels, beguiles and frightens, conveys a warm nostalgic aura but at the same time suggests an impending catastrophe. There is no action; the piazza is still; the figures wait’ (James Thrall Soby, Giorgio de Chirico, exh. cat., New York, 1966, p. 136).

The dreamlike, melancholic world that de Chirico conjured in this painting enchanted the Surrealists. André Breton greatly admired this painting and the poet Paul Éluard, who had amassed a large collection of works by the artist, was keen to buy it. In a letter from 24 March 1924, de Chirico explained to Éluard’s wife Gala, in answer to her request to buy I pesci sacri and Le muse inquietanti , both of which he had already sold: ‘If you would like exact replicas of these two paintings, I can make them for you for 1,000 Lira each. These replicas will have no fault other than having been executed with a more beautiful material and a more skilful technique’ (de Chirico, letter to Gala Éluard, in P. Baldacci, Betraying the Muse: De Chirico and the Surrealists, New York & Milan, 1994, p. 201). The Éluards agreed to de Chirico’s controversial idea of replicating his own painting, and their version of Le muse inquietanti would prove to be the first of several versions of this theme.

De Chirico continued to repeat, replicate and quote from his own compositions and paintings throughout the 1920s and beyond, believing that the original idea expressed in a painting was more important than the artefact itself. In copying his own work, de Chirico challenged the modernist compulsion for authenticity and uniqueness, and in so doing, prefigured the work of the Pop artists of the 1960s and the subsequent post-modernist movement. When, in 1979, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a retrospective of de Chirico’s work, Andy Warhol came across a reproduction of the many variants of Le muse inquietanti , and recognised in de Chirico the same concern with appropriation that he was exploring in his own work: ‘De Chirico repeated the same images throughout his life. I believed he did it not only because people and dealers asked him to do it, but because he liked it and viewed his repetition as a way of expressing himself. This is probably what we have in common… The difference? What he repeated regularly, year after year, I repeat the same day in the same painting’ (Warhol, quoted in ‘Industrial metaphysics: Interview with Andy Warhol by Achille Bonito Oliva’, in Andy Warhol (After de Chirico), exh. cat., London, 1998, p. 8).

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