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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN GENTLEMAN

Le Muse Inquietanti (The Disquieting Muses)

Le Muse Inquietanti (The Disquieting Muses)
signed 'g. de Chirico' (lower left); signed and titled ‘Giorgio de Chirico “Le Muse inquietanti”’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
38 1⁄4 x 26in. (97 x 66cm.)
Painted in 1959
Private Collection, Turin.
Galleria Il Ridotto, Turin.
Galleria La Barcaccia, Rome.
Galleria La Medusa, Rome.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1980s.
C. Bruni Sakraischik, Catalogo Generale Giorgo de Chirico, vol. V, Opere dal 1951 al 1974, Milan 1974, no. 696 (illustrated).
W. Rubin (ed.), De Chirico, exh. cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1982 (illustrated, p. 75).
W. Rubin, W. Schmied and J. Clair (eds.), Giorgio de Chirico, der Metaphysiker, exh. cat., Munich, Haus der Kunst, 1982-1983 (illustrated, p. 71).
P. Baldacci and W. Schmied (eds.), Die Andere Moderne: De Chirico/Savinio, exh. cat., Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, 2001 (illustrated, p. 174).
Bari, Palazzo della Provincia, 10 Mostra nazionale di pittura contemporanea 'Maggio di Bari', 1960, p. 51, no. 4 (illustrated, p. 96).
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Held in the same private collection for more than three decades, Le Muse Inquietanti (The Disquieting Muses) (1959) presents Giorgio de Chirico’s most famous and enduring painterly subject, first conceived at the height of his Metaphysical period some four decades earlier. Set on a stage-like wooden platform in front of the red-bricked Castello Estense in Ferrara, a group of statuesque figures stand surrounded by colourful, enigmatic props. Their dark shadows heighten the plunging perspective of the dreamlike scene, whose green sky is lit with an unearthly yellow glow. The artist had arrived at this composition while stationed in Ferrara during the First World War, originally titling the work Le Vergini Inquietanti (The Disquieting Virgins). He later altered the title, identifying the figures as the mythological Muses, the goddesses of inspiration in knowledge and the arts. Their mannequin heads relate to the image of a faceless clairvoyant ‘sans yeux sans nez et sans oreilles’ conjured by the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, with whom de Chirico and his musician brother Alberto Savinio had collaborated during the war. These mute faces contrast eerily with the marble drapery of their bodies. The juxtaposition of the classical past—a cultural memory deeply rooted in de Chirico’s Greek background—with uncanny, theatrical elements of modernity creates a tableau of obscure meanings and prophetic, visionary mystery.

The oneiric, melancholy world that de Chirico conjured in Le Muse Inquietanti enchanted the Surrealists. André Breton greatly admired the painting, and the poet Paul Éluard, who had amassed a large collection of works by de Chirico, was keen to buy it. In a letter from 24 March 1924, the artist responded to Éluard’s wife Gala, who had asked to purchase Le Muse Inquietanti and another work, 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’ (G. de Chirico, letter to G. 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 suggestion, and their 1924 version of Le Muse Inquietanti would prove to be the first of multiple iterations produced over the following decades.

De Chirico went on to repeat, replicate and quote from his own compositions throughout the 1920s and beyond, believing that the original idea expressed in a painting was more important than the artefact itself. With radical disregard for the modernist imperatives of authenticity and uniqueness, his approach in many ways anticipated the work of the Pop artists who would emerge in the 1960s, as well as the concerns of postmodernism. In 1982, three years after the artist’s death, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a de Chirico retrospective, begrudgingly including a small number of post-1920 works. Upon seeing a spread in the catalogue that illustrated eighteen variants of Le Muse Inquietanti—including the present example—Andy Warhol recognised a kindred spirit. ‘De Chirico repeated the same images throughout his life’, he said. ‘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’ (A. Warhol, quoted in A. Bonito Oliva, ‘Industrial metaphysics: Interview with Andy Warhol’, in Andy Warhol (After de Chirico), exh. cat. Waddington Custot, London 1998, p. 8). Warhol paid homage to de Chirico with a number of serial silkscreens derived from his compositions, beginning with Le Muse Inquietanti. Much as they haunted the artist himself, the disquieting muses’ ineffable power continues to pervade the contemporary imagination today.

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