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The Philosopher (central section of triptych)

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

1927

O.1931.1

Title The Philosopher (central section of triptych)
Object type Painting
Date 1927
Artist/maker Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Support Canvas
Medium Oil Paint
Marks and
Inscriptions
signed & dated
Dimensions h:1167 w:895 mm
Accession Lot Sir Michael Ernest Sadler, The Art Fund (via) (gift, 1931)
Accession number O.1931.1

Collection Exhibitions : Interior Lives : Object Label : O.1931.1

The paintings of Giorgio de Chirico have an enigmatic, dream-like quality, often evoking feelings of stillness and melancholy. The Philosopher has strong echoes of classical Greece in both the main figure and the jumble of objects piled upon its lap, which include a temple column, a harp and what appears to be a classically sculpted head. The inclusion of such objects as Greek temple columns in such a domestic setting as a modern living room creates both a blurring of interior and exterior space and of past and present, suggesting a surreal, theatrical quality.

Collection Exhibitions : Interior Lives : Object Label : O.1931.1

The paintings of Giorgio de Chirico have an enigmatic, dream-like quality, often evoking feelings of stillness and melancholy. The Philosopher has strong echoes of classical Greece in both the main figure and the jumble of objects piled upon its lap, which include a temple column, a harp and what appears to be a classically sculpted head. The inclusion of such objects as Greek temple columns in such a domestic setting as a modern living room creates both a blurring of interior and exterior space and of past and present, suggesting a surreal, theatrical quality.

Collection Exhibitions: Continental Drift: Object Label: O.1931.1

The Philosopher, a mannequin figure with the head of a tailor’s dummy and truncated legs derived from medieval statuary, sits hunched over, meditating upon a classical past that materialises as a jumble of books and sculptural and architectural relics in his lap. De Chirico had first pictured mannequins in his work before the First World War, where they had looked mechanised and threatening. In the mid-1920s he reworked many of the themes of his earlier paintings but here, by contrast, the mannequin has a flesh-like solidity. Contemporary critics thought that de Chirico’s new mannequin figures were symbols of the collapse of an over-sophisticated and exhausted European culture. Conscious of its decrepitude, Europe had turned upon itself and was left only with meditating on its rich cultural past, ironically presented as old items from a bric-a-brac store.