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Orpheus - Tired Troubadour

Painting, 1970

Description of the artwork «Orpheus - Tired Troubadour»

"Orpheus is a tired troubadour" - picture of 1970, the period when de Chirico returns to his “canonical” principle of metaphysical painting and puts old forms into new ideas.

This picture is familiar from earlier works, rolling over the landscape of an Italian city in one form or another. The white colonnade aspires to the red tower on the horizon - the center of a distant city surrounded by a fortified wall. In the distance, you can see the approaching sailboat.

The main character is a dummy troubadour. This is a holistic, complete image, but at the same time fragmented into parts: the harper’s chest and hands completely resemble human ones, but at the same time the hips are wooden prostheses, and the calves and feet are taken from a marble statue. Dummies, as full-fledged heroes, entered de Chirico's paintings from the very beginning of the development of his individual style. The viewer, looking at them, is confused, not understanding who or what is in front of him: a doll, a mechanism, and maybe a living being. Freud wrote a thought that inspired and became a landmark for many surrealists: "One of the most reliable ways to cause a feeling of disturbing strangeness is to create uncertainty about whether a person who appears to our eyes is a living creature or an automaton.". Riddle and anxiety were the basis of metaphysical painting, so the dummy confidently turned into the late work of de Chirico. He became not just a copy, but a way to rethink the past, where automation was a symbol of new art, and staticness was contrasted with the bright dynamics of futurists.

Orpheus, despite his mechanization, was tired and sat down on a gray cube. The faceless head bowed over his shoulder, his hands casually releasing the harp. Probably, in the artist's view, before this the singer performed his music and over the deserted coastal city in the dark blue sky you can see the silhouette of a fairytale castle, a magical mirage.

Archeology interested de Chirico in the times of the “first wave” of metaphysical painting, especially the artist’s first wife was actively involved in excavations. In the later period, when the artist turns to his own creativity, he also uses the details of the finds and elements of antiquity. Against the backdrop of a Mediterranean city and Orpheus, a half-statue semi-hecken, one can see Ionic volutes, which make up the geometric composition behind the hero and are the decor of his torso and a metal harp thrown at the Gog. The feeling of antiquity is also conveyed by a long himation cloak draped over a shoulder.

De Chirico mixes not only time, fantasy and reality, but also space. The interior is easily incorporated into the urban landscape: the dusty beige curtain on the left reminds a theatrical action and separates the planes. The object, also dividing the area of the city, is a brick wall, looking out from behind a curtain.

The hero of Greek mythology, Orpheus, with the sounds of his harp, tamed wild beasts and made stones move. This is a symbol of the rule of art, not only over man, but over the whole living world. The theme of Orpheus somehow concerned de Chirico in his theatrical works and ended with the image of a tired troubadour, a soulless dummy capable of evoking magical visions with the sounds of a harp.

Author: Lyudmila Lebedeva
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About the artwork

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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Mythological scene, Urban landscape, Allegorical scene

Style of art: Metaphysical painting

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1970

Artwork in selections: 8 selections

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