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Orpheus the Tired Troubadour, 1970

Orpheus the Tired Troubadour, 1970

Oil on canvas, 149 x 147 cm

In Greek mythology, Orpheus was a musician and poet whose melodious song accompanied by the lyre was able to tame ferocious beasts and move stone. De Chirico dedicated himself to this theme in two theatre productions: for the 1949 edition of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino for which he designed the stage-sets for Monteverdi’s Orpheus and the 1973 production of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice.

In this painting, as in other paintings from the Neometaphysical period of 1960-70s, de Chirico returned to subjects and themes from the iconographic “repertoire” of his early metaphysical works, with  a multitude of new ideas and not without a certain sense of irony. The composition presents a large, empty piazza, with the typical 15th century porticoed buildings found throughout his work. At the back of the composition, a great chimney recalls the industrial urban landscapes seen in paintings from the 1910s. Beyond the wall marking the line of the horizon, one notes the presence of a sailboat close to a Mediterranean town.

In the green, solid sky the discrete profile of the castle of Urbino stands out (visible under the painting’s surface), as if calling from a distant memory. The painting’s absolute protagonist is found in the mannequin-troubadour, another note from the artist’s images from the 1910-20s. For Jole de Sanna, the troubadour in question derives from the 1915 work The Vaticinator. Yet, this mannequin is in fact a hybrid as it also embraces iconographic elements from the Archaeologist of the 1920s, seen in the characteristic set-squares and rulers gathered in its abdomen. The structures behind its shoulders also recall the Metaphysical Interiors from the Ferrara period of 1915-18. This rich grouping of characters from de Chirico’s metaphysical alphabet are fused with new iconographic elements: the fantastic Baroque volutes set at the sides of his work like quotation marks. (S.V.)

(Original title: Orfeo trovatore stanco, 1970, Inv. 71)