De Chirico, Archaeologists, and dreams of the ancient past

Giorgio De Chirico,

"Archeologi", 1968, olio su tela

“A sleeping world or one that thrives on / changeless being – who can say?” wondered Eugenio Montale in his “Sarcophagi”, one of the poems included in the collection “Cuttlefish Bones” (or “Ossi di seppia”, in Italian), published in the early 1920s.

In the same decade, Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) painted his first “Archaeologists”: a “metaphysical” subject that will recur throughout his career.

The hendecasyllabic verses written by the Ligurian poet may spring to mind in front of De Chirico’s oil canvases, featuring mannequins, in pairs or alone, with their abdomens full of ancient ruins, columns, small temples, busts, aqueducts… remains of a past and origin (De Chirico was born in Greece) that were lost forever, and perhaps represented a Golden Age, an infancy of the world, that can only come back to us in the vague memory of dreams.

August 27, 2014