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signed, titled and dated 'TROFALLASSI 2019 Guglielmo Castelli' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
55 7/8 x 39 3/8in. (142 x 100cm.)
Painted in 2019
Francesca Antonini Arte Contemporanea, Rome.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2019.
K. Mothes, ‘Guglielmo Castelli’, in Young Space, 15 June 2019 (illustrated in colour).
L. Leiman, ‘”What a wonderful thing to fall”: In conversation with Guglielmo Castelli’, in ArtMaze Magazine, 10 February 2020 (illustrated in colour).
Rome, Francesca Antonini Arte Contemporanea, Phantasma, 2019.
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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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Interim Head of Department

Lot Essay

Painted in 2019, Trofallassi is a bewitching example of Guglielmo Castelli’s layered, theatrical compositions. Rendered in a delicate, mottled colour palette, a surreal puppet-like figure is suspended upon an enigmatic stage. Castelli weaves a tangle of limbs, with outstretched arms and legs writhing at contorted angles. Behind a shimmering black veil, a single head lies dormant, resembling a mannequin or bust. To the far left, the shape of a Roman column appears like a prop. Having studied set design at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Turin, Castelli’s practice is firmly grounded in the world of theatre. Drawing upon a wide range of art-historical references—from the disquieting piazzas of Giorgio de Chirico, to the dreamlike spaces of Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard—his canvases evoke a bohemian world of performance, artistry and illusion. In Trofallassi, the curtain falls—or rises—upon a scene of arcane drama, where nothing is quite as it seems.

Alongside theatre, Castelli’s practice is driven by his love of literature. ‘The power of a word that becomes an image’ inspires him, he says, ‘and how it can create new languages and visual alphabets’ (G. Castelli, quoted in N. Trembley, ‘Interview with painter Guglielmo Castelli: “Art is the only sign of a man’s passage on earth”’, Numéro, 15 June 2022). His literary imagination reveals itself most prominently in his titles, their poetic yet unfamiliar wording often underscored by complex definitions. The present work’s title translates to ‘trophallaxis’ in English: a term denoting the transfer of nutrients between certain animals. The notion resonates with Gilles Deleuze’s writings on Francis Bacon—a text familiar to Castelli—which describes the visceral exchange of forces between figure and ground in his paintings. In Trofallassi, Castelli’s figure seems to feed off itself and its surroundings, emerging organically from its own twisted anatomy. Its hybrid form, indeed, recalls the Surrealist game known as cadavre exquis, in which successive anatomical parts were drawn by different players without seeing the whole.

Having worked as a costume designer during his theatre days, as well as contributing illustrations toVogue Italia, Castelli also has a background in fashion and textiles. In Trofallassi, the pointed black shoes of his protagonist recall the elaborate costumes he has designed for the stage. The lavish textures of his compositions, meanwhile, invite comparison with the majestic swathes of fabric that punctuate the interiors of late nineteenth-century painting. The present work’s tactile terrain conjures memories of silk, gauze and other materials, its sweeping black drapery laden with a sense of fin-de-siècle glamour, decadence and mystery. Figuration slips into abstraction; reality, in turn, slips into illusion. Like its protagonist, the painting’s surface shifts in and out of focus, suspended between worlds.

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