Massimo Campigli (1895-1971)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller
Massimo Campigli (1895-1971)

Scalinata Trinità dei Monti

Massimo Campigli (1895-1971)
Scalinata Trinità dei Monti
signed and dated 'CAMPIGLI 54' (lower right)
oil on canvas
38 x 51 in. (96.5 x 130 cm.)
Painted in 1954
Eric Estorick, London.
Galleria l'Obelisco, Rome.
Acquired from the above by the late owners, March 1959.
J. Cassou, Campigli, Paris, 1957, p. 100 (illustrated; illustrated again in situ, p. 21; with incorrect dimensions).
R. De Grada, Campigli, Rome, 1969, p. 220 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
M. Potter et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: European Works of Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, pp. 322-323, no. 142 (illustrated; titled The Spanish Steps).
N. Campigli and E. and M. Weiss, Campigli, Catalogue raisonné, Milan, 2013, vol. II, p. 667, no. 54-050 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
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Lot Essay

Infused with a mysterious, otherworldly atmosphere, Campigli’s Scalinata Trinità dei Monti conjures a poetic and strange scene in which a troupe of anonymous women traverse a stone staircase to nowhere, their angular forms almost floating as they move through the stage-like setting to an unknown destination. Enigmatic and hieratic, these inscrutable female characters were a common sight within Campigli’s oeuvre, their mask-like faces and highly stylized bodies lending them a distinct surreality that recalls the Pittura Metafisica compositions of Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. Campigli himself confessed that he was not entirely sure why these ethereal women were his constant theme, citing inner necessity as the primary inspiration behind their forms, but they populated his visions incessantly. With their waspish waists and trapezoid torsos, they appear almost doll-like, their angular bodies evoking the simple, geometric contours of ancient Cycladic sculpture. Depicted with a deliberate restraint, these women are at once modern and timeless, individual and universal, their anachronistic style of dress and serene deportment casting them as emblematic figures rather than independent characters. Completely absorbed in their own world, their faces remain impassive, leaving the viewer oblivious to their motivation or purpose, simply an outside observer of their mysterious procession.
For Campigli, the art of antiquity was a fundamental source of inspiration. While his earliest paintings had been heavily influenced by ancient Egyptian art, in particular the artifacts he had seen on his numerous trips to the Louvre while living in Paris, it was during a visit to the Etruscan collections at the Museo di Villa Giulia in Rome in 1928 that the artist experienced a true epiphany, which would shape his oeuvre for years to come. Responding almost immediately to the rich visual stimuli he had encountered there, the contours of his figures became dramatically simplified, their forms reduced to a series of carefully delineated, architectonic shapes, while his palette grew lighter, encompassing a select grouping of muted yellows, creams, blues and terracotta tones. Using dry, fresco-like paints applied in thick, overlapping layers, Campigli brought a new richness to the surface of his works, achieving a highly textured finish that recalls the enigmatic wall paintings of Pompeii. In this way, Campigli creates a visual world that is at once familiar and strange, imbued with a dreamy charm and an otherworldly presence.

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