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Sun on the Easel, 1973

Sun on the Easel, 1973

Oil on canvas, 64.5 x 81 cm

The painting’s subject, in which a sun and moon are switched off in the sky and turned on inside a room, derives from a number of the sixty-six lithographs de Chirico executed to illustrate the prestigious edition of Apollinaire’sCalligrammes, published in Paris in 1930. The new themes and forms ideated by the Maestro for this publication generated one of the 20th century’s greatest masterpieces of graphic work. As the artist himself told Belgian collector René Gaffé in 1931: “[…] I was inspired by memories from 1913-14. I had just met the poet. I often read his verses in which he spoke of the sun and the stars […] while thinking of Italy, its cities and ruins […] the suns and stars had returned to earth like peace-loving immigrants. Without doubt, they must have turned themselves off in the sky, because I saw them light-up once again at the entrances and gates of many of these houses”.

The transformation of this original graphic subject into painting came about during de Chirico’s final creative period, know as Neometaphysics (1968-76) together with many other themes from the past, which were taken up once again and treated with irony. The painting’s iconography can be associated to two of the original lithographs: Le Vigneron Champenois, in which the protagonist is a sun on an easel, and L’Espionne where a moon is sitting in a room and connected to the sky with a cable. The composition is constructed as a theatre set with the sun and moon placed on a stage with curtains drawn open at either side, while at the back of the setting, a window is open on a Mediterranean landscape. Irony is a dominant element of all of de Chirico’s re-elaborations of the Calligrammessubject, in which elements of Nature, like the sun, the moon, or rain, are animated to a point of assuming almost human attitudes and set in theatre-like spaces where reality takes on a playful tone, strengthened by the warm and vivid colours. However, if on one hand the irony can be clearly seen in the connecting of the luminous moon and sun to their ‘doubles’ that are turned off, on the other, the black ‘counterparts’ possibly allude to death, and thus to a tragic theme. (S.V.)

(Original title, Sole sul cavaletto, 1973, Inv. 31)