Painted in 1964, this reprise of one of de Chirico's earlier masterpieces belongs to the so-called 'New Metaphysical' period in which the artist reinvented many of his earlier paintings depicting them in brighter and somewhat more optimistic colours. The great series of paintings of mannequins that de Chirico began to paint during the height of the First World War presented a sequence of tragic, lonely and abandoned figures lost in a strange melancholic world of artifice and enigma. Il trovatore (The Troubadour) is based on the 1917 painting of the same name that depicted a lone wandering artist/poet part creator/part creation, lost and isolated in the alienating nocturnal emptiness of a town square.
The themes of loneliness, isolation and abandonment that punctuate this and the other great paintings of mannequins from the First World War, reflect de Chirico's situation at this time in Ferrara, when, on leave of absence from the army, he was awaiting his recall to military duty. Implicit within these paintings is the satirical notion of the human being as a mere empty-headed automaton, a mechanical robot fulfilling his role in a bizarre mechanical universe. Unlike the Berlin dadaists, who soon took up this theme as a means of criticizing the brutality of authority, De Chirico's transmutation of the human into a dummy or a mechanical object is no satirizing of man's slave-like obedience to the powers that be, but rather a psychological portrait. For him, the impossible angles and geometry of the constructions that form these strange wooden constructed figures are architectural elements that attempt to map and outline the contours of the poetic soul. Their very fakeness, illogicality and physical impossibility are intended as an indication of the complexity and supra-rationality of the figure depicted.
The metaphysics of de Chirico's painting were aimed at demonstrating the world of everyday reality to be but a façade, within which, a richer, deeper, indefinable and mysterious poetry lay. Trapped, bound and encumbered by all the props and artifice of physical construction, the sad, lone, travelling poet that de Chirico presents in this painting is one that hints at this alternate reality at the same time as it criticises the density and clumsiness of ours.