Il trovatore signed 'g.de Chirico' (lower left) oil on board 30 x 20cm (11 13/16 x 7 7/8in).
PROVENANCE Acquired directly from the artist by the Ca' d'Oro Gallery, Rome. Ca' d'Oro Gallery, Rome. Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1973.
The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico and is recorded in their archives under the number 015/0512 O.T.
De Chirico viewed the works of his long career as a unified whole, and was keen to encourage that understanding by returning repeatedly to images, compositions and indeed styles of painting. Il trovatore is one of the most regular of these themes. The figure appears first in 1917 at the height of World War I, when de Chirico was in Ferrara on temporary medical leave from the army but awaiting his recall to military service. Reflecting both the uncertainty of his position and the heightened emotion of the time, he shows the troubadour as a lost and isolated figure wandering through the melancholy emptiness of an anonymous piazza. The troubadour is shown as a mannequin, a trope used often by de Chirico to represent the human condition, a symbolic construction taken from his younger brother Alberto Savino's dramatic poem Les Chants de la mi-mort of 1914, which was a cornerstone of both Surrealism and Pittura Metafisica. By placing the mannequin in a broad piazza with unsettling multiple vanishing points, de Chirico is building on his close reading of Nietzsche, questioning the value and objectivity of truth by depicting a dislocated reality shot through with a vaguely threatening air. The physical impossibility of the constructions in the piazza and the blank attitudes of the mannequins, shown clearly in the present work, coldly satirize the attempt to represent or relate to any sort of tangible external reality.
Il trovatore appears regularly after 1917, but with most force after 1960 when de Chirico entered a self-proclaimed neo-metaphysical phase, treating his own works of the period in Ferrara and the 1920s as part of a history that deserved to be revisited. Although maintaining the unity of his oeuvre through familiar motifs, the paintings of this period, of which the present lot is a clear example, are painted in a brighter and more translucent style.
Il trovatore also makes an implicit allusion to the traditional depiction of the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, for example in the works of Andrea Mantegna and Antonello da Messina, in which a solitary figure, tightly bound, occupies the foreground.