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    Born in Volos, a coastal port in Greece, Giorgio de Chirico’s work is closely associated with the past, as his subject matter is rooted in Greek and Roman mythology. The mythological element, however, is what renders his art so unique, as the reoccurring tale of the Dioscuri could be interpreted as a glimpse into the artist’s inner world. 

    'I still think of the enigma of the horse, in the sense of the marine god: once I envisioned it in the gloom of a temple that rose above the sea; the speaking messenger and the seer that the sea god has given to the king of Argos. I imagined it made of cut marble as white and pure as a diamond. It crouched like a sphinx on its haunches and in the movement of its white neck were to be found enigma and infinite nostalgia of the deep.'
    —Giorgio de Chirico
    According to Greek mythology, the Dioscuri were the twin sons of Leda. While Castor was the mortal, son of Tyndareus, king of Sparta, Pollux, a demigod, was the son of Zeus who had seduced their mother by disguising himself as a swan.1 In their adventures Castor was known as the tamer of horses, while Pollux was the valiant fighter. The most popular myth concerning the brothers was the Rape of the daughter of Leucippides, in which Castor was killed by the Apharids. Pollux begged his father Zeus to send death to him too, but Zeus allowed him to give up half of his immortality in favour of his brother. Thus, the two live alternating between one day in Olympus and one day in the kingdom of the dead. They later became known as the Gemini constellation, which resulted in their association with navigation.

     

    In the many Grecian and Roman depictions of the Dioscuri twins, the brothers are always depicted as horsemen and since De Chirico spent most of his life in Rome, he certainly would have been familiar with the statues, maintaining the same iconography in his own work. Dioscuri serves as the perfect embodiment of De Chirico’s ‘horsemen and the sea’ imagery as the scene is dominated by two gallant horsemen atop of muscular horses, at the forefront of a cerulean blue sea while in the shadow looms a Grecian temple. The artist’s constant return to this scenic representation and themes that came to define much of his oeuvre proves that nothing in his paintings is incidental and there is a deliberate construction of an auto-mythography. ‘…the artist likes what reminds him of certain visions that he had in his mind and in his instincts, and which are his secret world that no one can take away from him.’2 The Dioscuri’s different gifts and life-long companionship is reminiscent of de Chirico and his own brother Alberto Savinio, who enjoyed different artistic outlets but shared the same mythological source of inspiration.

     

    Mrs Fanny Hanna Moore
    Mrs Fanny Hanna Moore

    De Chirico’s use of lines, colour and space carries its own meaning, concerned more with narration of a composition rather than the reinforcement of any particular movement or style. In essence, De Chirico’s career evolution is centred not only on the development of language, style and form, but above all the communication of philosophical content. Dioscuri perfectly demonstrates de Chirico’s use and return to well established, familiar imagery, and how skilfully he refines them.
    'This matter, which constitutes the substance of painting, is composed of two elements which are equally important and absolutely inseparable: physical substance and metaphysical substance. These two elements complete each other reciprocally and when they are of a superior quality, create a masterpiece by way of their absolute harmony.'  
    —Giorgio de Chirico

    Rome Quadriennale archives showing Dioscuri third from right.

    In the 1920s as de Chirico moved away from his metaphysical canvases which had been admired by the Surrealists, he began to be influenced by the technique and subject matter of the Old Masters in Rome, and subsequently by the drama of the mythological Mediterranean landscapes of Arnold Böcklin.3 Soon after the theme of horses became a prominent element of de Chirico's work. In 1936-1937 he travelled to New York, where he was highly regarded and treated with a solo show ‘Recent Paintings by Giorgio de Chirico’ at the Julien Levy Gallery, which showcased the Dioscuri amongst many others. It was there that the philanthropist and award-winning horse breeder Mrs Fanny Hanna Moore added the work to her outstanding collection. An early collector of de Chirico in the U.S., Mrs. Moore was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as the Yale Art Gallery. The painting has remained in the family to this day.4

     

    1 Pindar, Tenth Nemean Ode.
    2 Giorgio De Chirico quoted in, Margaret Crosland, The Memoirs of Giorgio De Chirico, London, Owen, 1971, p. 48 referenced in, Sean Theodora O’Hanlan, “De Chirico and the Dioscuri: Metahistory and a Conception of Personal Mythology,” Colgate Academic Review 9.1, 2012, p. 59
    3  https://www.moma.org/documents/moma_catalogue_1967_300298679.pdf 
    4 Giorgio de Chirico: la Metafisica, by Regola d’Arte, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkANRlkva2k&feature=emb_title

    • Provenance

      Dr. Alexander Hirschberg
      Julien Levy Gallery, New York
      Mrs Fanny Hanna Moore, New Jersey
      Private Collection, New York (by descent from the above)
      By descent to the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Rome, Palazzo Delle Esposizioni, Seconda Quadriennale d' Arte Nazionale, February - July 1935, no. 12
      New York, Julien Levy Gallery, Recent Paintings by Giorgio De Chirico, 28 October - 17 November 1936, no. 19

    • Literature

      Lorenzo Canova, Giorgio de Chirico and Paolo Picozza, Giorgio De Chirico. Catalogo generale – Opere dal 1913 al 1975, Volume 4/2018, Falciano, 2018, no. 1498, pp. 177, 502 (illustrated, p. 177)

241

Dioscuri

signed 'G. de Chirico' lower right
oil on canvas
59.5 x 77 cm (23 3/8 x 30 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1933-34, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, signed by Professor Paolo Picozza and is recorded in the archive under no. 080/05/17 OT.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£100,000 - 150,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £138,600

Contact Specialist

 

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

+ 44 20 7318 4065
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 16 April 2021