Giorgio de Chirico invokes the magic and mystery of his childhood in Greece through the strange conjunction of classical fragments, marble statues and mundane objects drawn from the modern world. The present Piazza d'Italia, echoes de Chirico’s early Ariadne series, such as La ricompensa dell’indovino of 1913 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) by centring the composition of the painting on the strangely animate encounter between a classical statue of Ariadne and other objects, such as the modern brick wall and the steam train in silhouette. There is an overt pictorial play between the animate and the lifeless within the picture. A hauntingly beautiful, but lifeless stone classical statue depicting a living human figure is contrasted with other inanimate but luminescent and, in pictorial terms, lively, elements and objects such as the illuminated tower, the distant couple and the puff of steam against the dark green night sky.
Piazza d’Italia displays the enigmatic dreamlike quality that de Chirico often bestowed upon Mediterranean antiquity, speaking of the fundamental 'mystery and melancholy' of human existence through the ages. Ariadne, the abandoned princess of Greek mythology, appeared in his work throughout his career, an ever-constant monument to loneliness and exile. The Piazza d’Italia series display a pervasive sense of a crisis of modernity conveyed in his pictorial articulation of a strange or disjunctive antiquity. In addition, like Willhelm Jensen's story of Gradiva which so obsessed André Breton and many other Surrealists' imaginations, there is always in de Chirico’s evocation of the antique a sense of mystic continuity between past and present. A sense that, not only is the fragmented and broken nature of the past somehow also a fundamental reflection of the disjointed nature of the contemporary world of the present, but also that, beyond and between these two temporal eras, there stretches another wider and unexplored landscape of lyrical mystery and enduring power.