2 More

La Musa

La Musa
signed and inscribed 'g. de Chirico 1944' (lower right)
oil on canvas
21 ¾ x 13 ¼ in. (55.4 x 33.7 cm).
Painted circa 1973
Anon. sale, Christie's, Rome, 8 June 1989, lot 157.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Bristol, Arnolfini Gallery; Oxford, Museum of Modern Art; Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery and London, Riverside Studios, Late de Chirico, 1940-1976, March-September 1985 (illustrated; dated 1944).
Further details
The Fondazione de Chirico has confirmed the authenticity of this work. It is recorded in their archives under the number 76/88.

Brought to you by

Margaux Morel
Margaux Morel Associate Vice President, Specialist and Head of the Day and Works on Paper sales

Lot Essay

Held in the same private collection for more than three decades, La Musa presents one of de Chirico’s most famous and enduring painterly subjects, first conceived at the height of his Metaphysical period some decades prior. Set against a stage-like wooden platform in front of the red-bricked Castello Estense in Ferrara, recognizable in the right background, a statuesque figure stands tall, with a colorful, enigmatic prop to its feet and a dramatic archway to its right. The figure and archway’s dark and dramatic shadows heighten the plunging perspective of the dreamlike scene, whose green sky is lit with an unearthly yellow glow. The incongruous, impossible perspective and suspenseful shadows create an environment beyond physical existence, a counter metaphysical reality on par with the subconscious mind.
De Chirico first dreamt up this other-worldly scene while stationed in Ferrara during the First World War. He identified the statuesque figure as a mythological muse, a goddess of inspiration in knowledge and the arts. Her mannequin head relates 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. Her mute face and flayed back contrasts eerily with the marble drapery of her body. The figure’s modern day mannequin head also distorts its mythological identity, rendering its role in the painting indecipherable and obscure. This juxtaposition of the classical past—a cultural memory deeply rooted in de Chirico’s Greek background—with these uncanny, theatrical elements of modernity creates a tableau of enigmatic meaning and visionary mystery.
De Chirico revisited this figure of the mute muse throughout his entire artistic career. Although painted circa 1973, de Chirico inscribed the work with the earlier date of 1944, alluding, as he often did, to earlier works and periods of his oeuvre. This practice of subsequent explorations and revisions of a given theme, Paolo Baldacci has argued, visually manifests de Chirico's conception of history and art as cyclical temporal entities, expressing a philosophical vision of the world endowed to Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy (P. Baldacci, "De Chirico, le date, il tempo, la storia" in P. Daverio, ed., Giorgio De Chirico: I temi della metafisica, Milan, 1985, pp. 5-14). The subject of the present work recurs in de Chirico's oeuvre just as time repeats itself in the Nietzschean "eternal return," and in fact allows the artist to reinforce that return. In quoting from and even replicating his own work, de Chirico also challenged the modernist compulsion for authenticity and uniqueness, and in so doing, prefigured the work of the Pop artists and the subsequent post-modernist movement.

More from Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

View All
View All