Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE EYE OF THE ARCHITECT: PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTIONThe disciplines of architecture and painting have been intimately intertwined throughout history, two independent strands of creative thought that have nevertheless remained bound to one another by a common interest in how people experience the world around them. When considered in conjunction with one another, they can achieve a synergistic relationship, one in which the experience and appreciation of both the painting and the space they occupy are enhanced by their connection. The following selection of works from the collection of an esteemed European architect has been assembled with this concern in mind, each work having been chosen for its ability to complement and enrich the spaces they inhabit. Born from a keen sense of social responsibility, this architect’s forward-thinking vision was rooted in the grand tradition of socially engaged housing, creating unique buildings that place the welfare of residents above the flaunting of architectural form. Allowing ample space for vegetation to grow over their balconies and transform apartment blocks into living, vertical gardens, the resulting homes are places of beauty and contentment, with proximity to water and greenery fulfilling basic human needs as well as affording countless environmental benefits. In these buildings, the architect offered hope for a way of urban living that did not suffocate the natural world, but rather embraces an organic conception of growth, renewal and sustainability. The architect’s inventiveness, imagination and eye for detail find clear parallels in the art collection he formed over the course of his collecting life, acquiring pieces by some of the most celebrated masters of the twentieth-century avant-garde, from Pablo Picasso to Francis Bacon, Giorgio de Chirico to Joan Miró, and Fernand Léger to Giorgio Morandi. One of the most striking features of this varied group is the way in which the collector has managed to create a sense of unity amongst the works, choosing pieces of a similarly intimate scale and thematic concern to generate a dynamic dialogue between each of the pieces when considered together. Focusing primarily on figurative compositions, this tightly curated group of works not only reveals the collector’s discerning eye and architectural mind, but also his passion for artists who continuously sought to push the boundaries of tradition in their art. Indeed, many of the works in the collection date from pivotal periods of transition in each artists’ career, as they began to explore new, ground breaking techniques, subject matter or styles in their compositions. There is also a strong emphasis on form and construction in each of the compositions, and a fascination with the architecturally-minded approach to structure that feeds these artists’ aesthetic practices. There is a clear focus on Cubism and its later developments, for example, from the carefully composed still-lifes of Picasso, Juan Gris and Georges Braque, to the visionary machine aesthetic of Léger which expanded upon the traditions of the Cubist language and adapted them to his own unique style following the First World War. The automatic, fluid language of Miró’s brand of Surrealism, meanwhile, is contrasted with the metaphysical contemplations of De Chirico’s dreamlike scenarios and cityscapes, which share the pensive atmosphere of Morandi’s highly subtle, architectural, still lifes. A rare example of Picasso’s Surrealist-influenced series of figures, meanwhile, finds echoes in Bacon’s disintegration of the human form, as the features of his model, Henriette Moraes, dissolve into an array of rich, expressive strokes of paint. Offering an intriguing insight into some of the most dynamic and exciting periods of the European artistic avant-garde, these works stand as a testament to the collector’s keen connoisseurial eye and deep appreciation for the connection between modern art and architecture.
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

Testa di manichino

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Testa di manichino
signed ‘G. de Chirico’ (centre left)
oil on canvas
14 1/8 x 11 5/8 in. (36 x 29.5 cm.)
Painted in 1916-1917
Mario Broglio, Rome.
Léon Kochnitzky, Paris, by 1937.
Philippe Soupault, Paris.
Harold Diamond, New York.
Alain Tarica, Paris.
Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva.
Private collection, Europe, by whom acquired from the above circa 1974.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1994.
G. Hugnet, Surrealistische Schilderkunst, Amsterdam, 1938, no. 21, p. 20.
M. Fagiolo dell'Arco, L’opera completa di De Chirico, 1908-1924, Milan, 1984, no. 130, p. 102 (illustrated p. 103; titled 'Musa Inquietante' and dated '1918').
C. Bruni Sakraischik, Catalogo Generale Giorgio de Chirico, vol. VIII, opere dal 1908 al 1930, Milan, 1987, no. 469, n.p. (illustrated).
P. Baldacci, De Chirico, 1888-1919: La metafisica, Milan, 1997, no. 143, pp. 399 & 442 (illustrated; titled ‘Figura metafisica (Musa inquietante)’ and dated ‘1918’).
Paris, Musée du Jeu de Paume, Origines et Développement de l’Art International Indépendant, July - October 1937, no. 100, n.p. (titled ‘Les Muses inquiétantes’ and dated ‘1911’).
Amsterdam, Galerie Robert, Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, March 1938, no. 24, p. 3 (titled ‘Muse déconcertée’ and dated ‘1913’).
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.

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Lot Essay

‘(...) For men of fate, even the saddest events, and perhaps these above all, are necessary for the development of the mysterious forces they harbour within them and which then appear in their works; I now feel that my departure from Paris, my distance from the milieu in which I lived, and the apparition of this fatal city in which I presently find myself, are fatally necessary to my creative self… I am writing to you from the bursar’s office; through the window I see the dark towers of the castle of the Marquis d’Este, where Parisina and her young lover were decapitated; it is very grand, very simple, very beautiful.’ -Giorgio de Chirico

Executed while Giorgio de Chirico was stationed in the Italian city of Ferrara during the First World War, Testa di manichino is one of the great, revolutionary series of ‘metaphysical paintings’ that the artist pioneered between 1912 and 1918. Taking the comparatively rare form of a portrait that depicts one of the strange and enigmatic mannequin-like personages who came to populate de Chirico’s art during this period, the painting presents, in surprising close-up, the seemingly curious image of one of his philosopher-poets gazing directly at the viewer from a construction of geometric tools and drawing implements.

For de Chirico, the disquieting image of the mannequin that came to distinguish his work during the years of the First World War had grown out of the faceless statues and shadow-bound sculptures populating the enigmatic piazzas and metaphysical landscapes of melancholy he had painted in Paris. Originally a fusion between an artist’s dummy and a classical Greek statue, de Chirico’s mannequins grew, in Ferrara, to become lonely symbols of otherworldliness in his work. Portrayed in these paintings as a kind of morphed composite of the tools found in his studio - of his easel, his drawing implements, classical bust and artist’s dummy - the mannequin came to stand, in de Chirico’s paintings, as a kind of mysterious visitor from the metaphysical realm of his artistic inspiration. As the titles de Chirico often gave to his paintings suggest, such mannequins became for him, philosophers, seers, savants, poets and muses: figures expressive of, and inexorably caught up with, a world of thought and memory.

This was one of the reasons why these paintings so fiercely captured the attention of the French Surrealists when they first saw them. Such paintings seemed to be the first ones in modern art to speak the language of another world - a world formerly only known to poets, philosophers and dreamers. Like de Chirico’s famous Muse inquientanti (Disquieting Muses) - a painting which was so greatly admired by the Surrealists that de Chirico was commissioned to paint a copy of it for Paul Éluard, Testa di manichino - a solitary portrait of another disquieting ‘muse’ or mannequin - was also a work that attracted their attention. It was once in the collection of the Surrealist poet Philippe Soupault. Soupault himself had acquired this work from another writer, the Belgian poet and leader of the short-lived Lega di Fiume, Léon Kochnitzy and prior to this, Testa di manichino had been owned by de Chirico’s friend and collaborator Mario Broglio, editor of the highly influential magazine Valori Plastici. Broglio, an important art critic, impresario, art dealer and painter from Rome, had first met de Chirico in April 1918 and on seeing his work became determined to publish what he called ‘an important magazine’ publicising this fascinating new development in Italian art. First appearing in November 1918, the first edition of Valori Plastici and the metaphysical paintings of de Chirico and Carlo Carrà that were illustrated in it would prove highly influential, not just among the Surrealists, but especially in Germany where they proved a major influence on the development of the new Verist, Realist and Neue Sachlichkeit tendencies there.

What was it that so appealed to these poets and writers about Testa di manichino? Was it the painting’s strange combination of loneliness and otherworldliness? Or the almost spectral, companion-like quality of this enigmatic protagonist or muse-like figure gazing out of the picture from its strange metaphysical realm, like a protective avatar? Like de Chirico’s later Great Metaphysician of 1917 and other poet-philosopher figures that appear in his work, the inquisitive and totemic mannequin or ‘Muse’ who functions like a melancholic watchman in this painting and is also, seemingly born from a construction of a set-squares, T-squares and other geometrical, measuring devices, carries about them a sense of tragic heroism. A lone figure, whose blank, dark and somewhat mournful eyes stare out of the picture as if questioning, this solitary ‘manichino’ commands its portrait-like frame in a way that makes the painting’s mysterious combination of rational geometry, isolation and melancholy appear to speak somehow of the sadness of reason.

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