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Still-life with Knife, 1932

Still-life with Knife, 1932

Tempera and oil on canvas, 80 x 140 cm

This large still-life is one of the oldest paintings in the Collection. The work, dated 1932, was exhibited at Rome’s Second Quadrennial in 1935. For the occasion, the Chirico sent forty-four paintings to Rome (including a number of still-lifes), from Paris where he was living with his wife-to-be Isabella. The works on show belonged both to a theme of fantasy as well as to the artist’s research pertaining to the return to order. As he wrote in the exhibition catalogue: “Today more that ever, it is the question ‘craft’ and of the material quality of paint interests me. In fact, I dedicate the better part of my energy to such questions. The paintings in which this research is best observed are:Self Portrait in the [Paris] Studio, a composition that goes by the name The Nobles and the Shopkeepers and a few landscapes…”.

The painting Self Portrait in the Paris Studio of 1935 was also among the works on show at the Quadrennial and can be considered as a manifesto of de Chirico’s new technique. In 1928, de Chirico’s interest in painting technique brought him to publish Piccolo trattato di tecnica pittorica (Small treatise on painting technique), a true guideline regarding materials, techniques, methods and the secrets of the trade. The painting shows exceptional quality, in which a particularly strong attention to the material substance of the paint is evident.

In the 1942 essay Le nature morte (Still-lifes) de Chirico wrote: “to paint air means to give such plasticity, such volume, such a strong shape to things, that one can feel the air circulate between one object and another; as a result, the objects appear as if suspended, immobile yet alive; while the air moves the objects seem still and immobilised as if by magic, each with their own frontiers, their promontories, their terraces, their towers, their viewpoints, their horizons. A still-life contains a whole world like in an illustrated dictionary”. (B. D’A.)

(Original title: Natura morte con coltello, 1932, Inv. 79)