'De Chirico repeated the same images throughout his life. I believe he did it not only because people and dealers asked him to do it, but because he liked it and viewed repetition as a way of expressing himself. This is probably what we have in common' (Andy Warhol, 'Interview with Achille Bonito Oliva', Warhol Salutes De Chirico, exh. cat. Milan, 1982, p. 50)
First painted in 1918, The Disquieting Muses is one of Giorgio de Chirico's most famous paintings. Depicting a sombre group of strangely adorned and pensive mannequins standing in deep shadow on a sharply perspectival landscape of floorboards in front of Ferrara's Castello Estense, the work is both a masterpiece of the melancholic metaphysical art de Chircio pioneered in the early twentieth century and an icon of Modernism.
A work which both enchanted the Surrealist and their vision of the world, as well as greatly influencing much of the 'New Realism' of the 1920s, The Disquieting Muses was instantly recognized as a landmark image of its time. André Breton wanted to buy it from de Chirico but was himself disquieted when de Chirico offered to paint him a copy. His friend the Surrealist poet Paul Eluard had no such qualms and in 1924 de Chirco painted him what was to prove the first of several copies. For de Chirico, it was purely the idea expressed within a painting that was of value, not the artifact itself. He had written back to Breton after his request, that such a 'replica' would 'have no faults other than having been executed in a more beautiful medium and with a more knowledgeable technique than the original' (Giorgio de Chirico, letter to Mme Breton, cited in Warhol Salutes De Chirico, exh. cat. Milan, 1982, p. 6).
When, soon afterwards, the Surrealists, intending to discredit de Chirico, began making their own forged copies of his work, de Chirico himself saw no reason why he shouldn't also repeat his own imagery. Indeed, given the timeless, metaphysical nature of his art, such a repetition of motif seemed to add a labyrinthine layer of complexity to the Laic mystery of his unique if also mysterious artistic journey through time. As a result, this most iconic of his images came, along with his paintings of the Piazza d'Italia, to become one of his most repeated images.
At a retrospective exhibition of his work held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1979, Andy Warhol came across a reproduction of the many variants of The Disquieting Muses that de Chirico had painted and immediately recognized in de Chrico as in Picabia, and important precedent of his own post-modernist aesthetic of self-appropriation. In homage to de Chrico he began a series of multiple image silkscreens of de Chirico's work, beginning, of course, with The Disquieting Muses.