copertina sidebar 14-16

 

The Repentant Minotaur, 1969

The Repentant Minotaur, 1969

High-relief silver patinated bronze, height 38.5 cm, base 14.5 x 32 cm

This work, the only high-relief sculpture executed by de Chirico, has a scenographic set-up: the bull-headed, human-bodied Cretan monster is standing in front of a small Doric temple, his right hand resting on his heart in an apologetic gesture.

For a number of dechirican scholars (G. dalla Chiesa 1988, p. 60; J. de Sanna 1998, p. 262), this constitutes the first appearance of the Minotaur in a work by de Chirico, who, with regard to this Mediterranean myth had always favoured Ariadne, both in painting and in sculpture. In fact, as Franco Ragazzi pointed out (Il grande Metafisico. Giorgio de Chirico scultore, 2004), the subject actually appeared for the first time in the artist’s theatre work, where interesting elaborations on this mythological character are found. In 1937, de Chirico executed a number of sketches for the ballet Le Minotaure by Louis Gauthier-Vignal, as part of a trilogy to be staged in Athens’ Teatro di Bacco, with chorography by Iolas Coutsoudis (Alexander Iolas, future art dealer of de Chirico), but which was never actually produced. The drawings were exhibited a number of times between 1939 and 1946. In the sketchMessaniscena per Le Minotaure we find this disturbing creature wearing the same mask, the same draped tunic, and in the same pose with hand on chest. As for the temple, as early as the 1930s this architectural element was often seen in de Chirico’s scenographic elaborations. The sculpture’s high-relief temple however, can be identified in a painting of the 1960s entitled Temple in a Room, in the collection of Rome’s Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea.

In the catalogue of the exhibition held in New York in 1972, de Chirico chose a quote from his 1929 novel Hebdomeros to illustrate the sculpture: “It was one of his principal weaknesses always to have a certain nostalgia for the past, even for such a gloomy past”. The human-like facial features and the adjective ‘repentant’ in the work’s title seem to dissolve the figure of its cruel and animal aspect, affording it the look and attitude of a guardian, a caretaker of the truth held within the temple. (B. D’A.)

(Original title: Il minotauro pentito, Inv. S1)