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The Face of Metaphysics

Until 7 July 2019, the rooms at the Doge’s apartment in Palazzo Ducale welcome an exhibition on Giorgio de Chirico. The Face of Metaphysics showcases 100 works, created by the Pictor Optimus throughout his career.

The exhibition offers a critical revision of the artist’s complex activities, a hundred years after the decision (1919) to steer his art in a different direction, in other words, his decision to distance himself from metaphysical painting (1910-1918) in favour of styles and techniques inspired by classicism and the great masters of the past. In line with the position that de Chirico maintained, the exhibition shows not a detachment, but an increasingly sophisticated evolution. “The exhibition – says curator Victoria Noel-Johnson – aims to promote the interpretation of a continuous metaphysics where the whole de Chirico corpus – despite variations in style, technique, subject matter, composition and colour tone – is to be considered metaphysical. Influenced by the philosophy of the late nineteenth century, and especially by Nietzsche, de Chirico’s works explore the reversal of time and space, with illogical perspectives and shadows, often using senseless juxtapositions of common objects in unexpected, typically De Chirico environments. This enigmatic world transforms our everyday life and mundane things into revelations, leading us to discover the metaphysical side of what the philosopher-poet de Chirico offers to spectators”.

The exhibition opens with a selection of works on the theme of travel and return, a metaphor for the discovery of multidimensional metaphysics according to de Chirico’s interpretation. The exhibition continues with an analysis of metaphysical nature, with still lives and silent lives (as de Chirico preferred to define them after 1942), such as The Sicilian dessert (1919), Mandarins on a branch (1922-23), Still life (1930) and Armours with horse-rider (Ariosto’s still life) painted in 1940, as well as a selection of horses by the sea and neo-baroque landscapes.

The review closes with the metaphysics section, where a more traditional approach is seen in various portraits that contain clear references to fifteenth and sixteenth-century portraiture – such as Portrait of the mother (1911) and Mrs Gartzen (1913) – as well as self-portraits in seventeenth century clothes, inspired by the works of Rubens and Velázquez.