Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
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Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

Il Trovatore

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Il Trovatore
signed 'g. de Chirico' (lower left)
oil on canvas
19 7/8 x 15 ¾ in. (50.4 x 40 cm.)
Painted in 1950-1951
(possibly) Galleria Sacerdoti, Milan.
Private collection, Milan (probably acquired from the above, by 1983).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
C. Bruni Sakraischik, Catalogo generale Giorgio de Chirico: Opere dal 1951 al 1974, Milan, 1983, vol. 7, no. 1027 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Depicting an uncanny wooden mannequin figure standing amidst a deserted and enigmatic landscape, Il Trovatore is a reprisal of one of De Chirico's most famous paintings of the same name. De Chirico first painted a near-identical scene in 1917, at the height of his famed Metaphysical period and subsequently returned to this subject on numerous occasions throughout his career. With its eerie stillness and strange timelessness, this painting is imbued with an air of infinite mystery, one of the defining and most compelling characteristics of De Chirico's work.
The 1917 version entitled Il Trovatore was one of a definitive series of paintings now considered to be among the greatest masterpieces of the artist's career. Like Ettore e Andromaca and Le Duo which also date from this time, in Il Trovatore, De Chirico depicted mannequins assembled from wooden setsquares and measuring instruments, geometric pieces and stitched fabric set within Renaissance-like piazzas streaked with long, dark shadows as the sun sets, creating compellingly disquieting visions, which are devoid of emotion. The figure of the trovatore or troubadour–a solitary, wandering poet or musician–first appeared in De Chirico's painting in 1917 in a painting entitled Il Trovatore. Most likely inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's use of this figure in the final part of his book, The Gay Science as a symbol of a new, liberated and joyous art, the troubadour became one of the artist's most emblematic mannequin figures.
De Chirico painted the first version of Il Trovatore while he was stationed as a soldier in a military base in Ferrara in the First World War. Set within this context, the faceless mannequin takes on a more poignant meaning: isolated, alone and alienated they embody a poignant sense of disorientation and melancholia that can be seen to express the painful realities of wartime life. Mechanical and inanimate, the strangely constructed figure can be seen as reflecting the stifling effect that war had on human creativity; something with which De Chirico, having already experienced three years of war, would have been very familiar.
In contrast to these earlier Metaphysical works, Il Trovatore introduces a new aspect to the mysterious and compelling world of De Chirico. The colors are brighter and more saturated: the glowing, luminous sky is painted in vivid shades of green and yellow, and the ochre-colored ground has been enhanced to a rich orange-brown. The mannequin also appears more life-like, the wooden legs more rounded and animated as the figure stands lightly on his feet, taking a step forwards. Both of these stylistic and formal qualities of Trovatore are characteristic of De Chirico's 'New' Metaphysical period, during which the artist returned to many of his earlier pictures and reworked, replicated or quoted the same themes and subjects in the manner of his own early style. Although this process of appropriation was often met with controversy, for De Chirico it was the original artistic idea expressed in a painting that was of greater importance than the artefact itself. Challenging the modernist compulsion for authenticity and uniqueness, De Chirico prefigured and inspired the work of the Pop artists in the 1960s, particularly that of Andy Warhol who executed a series of silkscreen canvases based on a variety of the artist's Metaphysical paintings.

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