This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate from the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, Rome.
Closely linked to a crucial series of paintings from his early Metaphysical period, Il Trovatore is an emblematic example of Giorgio de Chirico's 'New-Metaphysical' style. At the centre of the picture, an uncanny figure appears to have been assembled with automaton legs, a torso made of planks and mannequin head and shoulder. It stands alone amid mysterious and empty buildings, as shadows melancholically stretch across the bare ground. The blue cloak on its shoulder and the sceptre behind it mock the high aspirations of this creature, apparent ruler of an empty plaza.
Conceived decades apart from de Chirico's early Metaphysical period, Il Trovatore presents a significant re-visitation of one of the artist's most enduring motifs. De Chirico firstly painted the trovatore - a solitary and wandering poet - in 1917, while staying in Ferrara. Part of what Paolo Baldacci calls 'the great mannequin series of 1917', that first painting gave de Chirico's mannequin its definitive and canonical form (P. Baldacci, De Chirico 1888-1919: La Metafisica, Milan, 1997, p. 372). The two receding rows of arcades in the background are reminiscent of another important early work by de Chirico: L'nigme d'une journe, painted in 1914. That work exercised great influence on the Surrealist group, especially on Breton, who owned the painting and who considered it to be among the artist's most 'incomparable works', painted between 1910 and 1917 (A. Breton, 'Surrealism and Painting', pp. 1-48, in A. Breton, Surrealism and Painting, trans. S. W. Taylor, London, 1972, p. 13).
Compared to these two early metaphysical works, however, Il Trovatore introduces a new dimension to the mysterious, haunting world of de Chirico's metaphysical paintings. The mannequin is invested with a sense of life absent from the early works: its parts appear precariously held together. Right foot half advancing, its head seems to bow under an invisible weight. While the 1917 mannequin sat at rest at the edge of the picture, the one in the present work seems to try to move towards the viewer. The colours too have been given a new brightness. The 1917 darkening sky is here substituted with a luminous horizon while the light of the scene has become warmer. Revisiting the artist's early motifs with new emphasis, Il Trovatore perfectly embodies the spirit of de Chirico's New-Metaphysical period. Mario Calvesi argued that the New Metaphysical works combined the voids, shadows and objects of the early works with the sense of movement and animation the artist explored in the series of gladiators and the 'mysterious baths' of his second Metaphysical period (M. Calvesi, "The 'New Metaphysical Period', pp. 7-21, in M. Calvesi and M. Ursino, ed., De Chirico: The New Metaphysics, Roma, 1996). Revisiting an early motif in a new, significant variation, Il Trovatore embodies de Chirico's specific reworking of his works in that period.
Baldacci perceived in this cyclical re-visitation of early themes the very essence of de Chirico's whole oeuvre: a pictorial translation of the Nieztchean 'eternal return' (P. Baldacci, 'De Chirico, le date, il tempo, la storia', p. 5-14, in P. Daverio, ed., Giorgio De Chirico: I temi della metafisica, Milano, 1985, p. 7). If past and present are absolute, all-encompassing entities, the present cannot be but a repetition of something that has already happened or that is bound to happen again in the future. This concept of infinite returns would receive an unexpected new impetus when Andy Warhol created his own Pop reincarnation of de Chirico's motifs in the 1980s. Il Trovatore exists in a philosophical dimension: forever repeating the archetypical image of the solitary, mannequin poet, yet opening it to new possibilities, realities and dreams.