GIORGIO DE CHIRICO (1888 - 1978)
GIORGIO DE CHIRICO (1888 - 1978)

Il gioco dei balocchi (The Game of Toys)

GIORGIO DE CHIRICO (1888 - 1978)
Il gioco dei balocchi (The Game of Toys)
signed and dated 'g. de Chirico 1971' (lower left)
oil on canvas
50 x 39.7 cm. (19 5/8 x 15 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1971
Fondazione de Chirico, Rome.
Private collection (acquired from the above circa 1995); sale, Christie's,
New York, 6 November 2013, lot 392.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
The Fondazione de Chirico has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
It is recorded in the archives under the number 056/07/13.
Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, Giorgio de Chirico, Catalogo Generale, vol. 1, Opere dal 1912 al 1976, Falciano, 2014, no. 413, p. 461 (illustrated p. 383).
New York Cultural Center and Art Gallery of Ontario, De Chirico by de Chirico, January-July 1972.
Museo Nazionale di Reggio Calabria, Omaggio a Giorgio de Chirico, December 1972-January 1973, no. 33 (illustrated).
Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Giorgio de Chirico. Peintures, sculptures, aquarelles, April-June 1976, no. 17 (illustrated; titled “Lla joie de jouets”)

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Lot Essay

"The artist likes what reminds him of certain visions that he has in his mind and in his instincts, and which are his secret world that nobody can take away from him"
(De Chirico quoted in De Chirico by De Chirico, exh. cat., The New York Cultural Centre, New York, 1972).

A playful convergence of dynamic architecture, mysterious objects and dramatic light and shadow, Giorgio de Chirico's Il gioco dei balocchi (The Game of Toys) from 1971 aligns in subject with some of the artist's famed early pittura metafisica works featuring the themes of "toys" and "games" such as Le mauvais génie d'un roi (The Evil Genius of a King) , 1914–15 (Museum of Modern Art, New York). Operating from within their own internal logic, De Chirico's carefully constructed compositions utilise complex geometric interrelationships to create a new artistic reality that defies literal interpretations of time and space. It was early works such as these that would cement De Chirico's reputation at the forefront of the European avant-garde during the early 20th Century, providing a key inspiration to the Surrealists who would eagerly follow his lead in manipulating figuration to challenge perceived realities during subsequent decades.

Il gioco dei balocchi (The Game of Toys) bears particular similarity in pictorial structure to Le mauvais génie d'un roi (The Evil Genius of a King), 1914-1915 (Museum of Modern Art, New York) which was later reprised with a few notable changes under the very different title of L'amore del mondo (Love of the World) , 1960 (Private Collection). Both compositions employ a central ochre-coloured plane filled with enigmatic candy-coloured geometric objects which are familiar to us in part from the artist's interiors and mannequin figures. These objects appear to defy gravity, following one another around the pictorial space with their own sense of strategy and meaning, like chess pieces engaged in play. Ambiguous yet semi-recognisable, they appear as tools of knowledge or magic—a sundial, a ladder, a spiral with reference to the Golden Section, vectors, marbles, a wand— suggesting agency towards some secret goal, beckoning us to reveal the essential truths they might impart about the universe. They are the tools or perhaps "toys" of the powerful King whose presence is not revealed, yet is nonetheless felt by association with their presence and careful placement.

Compositional elements are further shared in common with De Chirico's famed composition Le Muse inquietanti (The Disquieting Muses), first painted in 1916 and reprised numerous times throughout the artists lifetime, as such also appropriated later by Andy Warhol who was inspired by De Chirico's repetition of this theme for his work The Disquieting Muses (After de Chirico) , from 1982 (Private Collection). All works share in common the same dramatic architectural features with incongruous, impossible perspectives and suspenseful shadows, creating an environment beyond physical reality, bathed in twilight, on the cusp of night and day, or perhaps within both at once. Figures loom on the horizon or in the distance amidst De Chirico's ubiquitous classical architecture, in Il gioco dei balocchi (The Game of Toys) a figure on horseback emerges to the right of seeming to charge directly for us, yet is revealed a stony monument to a triumphant past, static and fixed. This new paradoxical order of time and space draws all together into one sphere, a vortex of past and present, fixed and mobile, real and esoteric. Hence we find De Chirico's game in defying the conventions of supposed reality, enticing the mind into a constructed new reality of art where all possibilities exist. As the artist himself said: "And the perspectives of the constructions rise up, full of mystery and presentiment, the corners conceal secrets, and the work of art is no longer the dry episode limited to the actions of the people depicted, but it is the whole cosmic and vital drama that enmeshes man and draws him into its spirals; where past and future get mixed-up, where the enigma of existence, sanctified by the breath of art, divests the tangled and frightful appearance that outside of art man imagines, to clothe the eternal, tranquil and consoling aspect of ingenious construction. "(quoted in K. Robinson, "Hidden Harmony, The King's Game" in Metafisica, vol. 5, 2006, p. 140).

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