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Ulysses’ Return, 1968

Ulysses’ Return, 1968

Oil on canvas, 59.5 x 80 cm

Executed in the later period of the Maestro’s life, this painting is an original elaboration of earlier themes, created in collage style from various elements of his metaphysical alphabet. De Chirico placed Ulysses, oars in hands, in a rowboat navigating on a carpet-sea inside a reassuring bourgeois setting. In relation to the ambivalent indoor-outdoor relationship, a passage from Hebdomeros (1929) is illuminating: “Hebdomeros had to flee. He turned circles with his boat in his room, continually forced into a corner by the undercurrent and, at last, abandoning his frail craft and gathering all his strength and skill as a former gymnast, he hoisted himself up to the window which was placed very high, like the window of a prison, helping himself by the moulding.”

The room seems like a small museum arranged by the artist at the end of his career, in his own memory: the armoire, the chair and armchair as found in the Furniture in the Valley series of the 1920s, the painting on the left presenting one of the artist’s famous Italian Piazza paintings of the initial metaphysical period and the room that brings to mind paintings from the 1920s. The door left ajar at the back of the room and the window open upon a familiar archaeological landscape, remind us once again of a dimension and place beyond our contingent being of and in the world. From the depths of oblivion (the darkness beyond the door) through memory (the remains of a distant past), it is possible to reconstruct the meaning held ‘within’ objects, that only a dreamer or child can reveal.

By way of continuous circular motion, of coming and going, de Chirico, like Ulysses, finally returns home to his own soil – to a place both abandoned and rediscovered – and does so transformed by the long voyage undertaken, a voyage, which is especially a condition of the mind. (B.D’A.)

(Original title: Il ritorno di Ulisse, Inv. 44)