Giorgio de Chirico

La notte di Pericle

La notte di Pericle is one of the paintings done in 1926 that recovers the compositional form of solids and architectural fragments that De Chirico previously proposed. The series represents a phase of transition in the artist’s production in which he reinterpreted many of his metaphysical elements with greater inventive lightness and a new concept of colour. This was an early expression of de Chirico’s more pronounced classicism evident in his works done at the end of the 1920s and in the following decade.

The group of geometric solids positioned one atop another in precarious balance is the focal point of the painting characterized by bright colours and occasional raised elements. The painting of a classic nude statue contemplating a fragment of a fluted column and a model of a Greek temple positioned at the top of the composition are inserted between the blocks. The man portrayed and the classical architecture might be a reference to Pericles, the man responsible for building the Parthenon and other constructions on the Acropolis in Athens.

Unlike other compositions usually displayed indoors, the pile of forms that dominates La notte di Pericle stands on a foreshortened wooden floor edged against a black background holding an evanescent architectural silhouette with broken white lines. The presence of the background and the screen jutting in at the left of the foreground heighten the theatrical effect of the whole, while the artificial atmosphere is emphasized by the meticulously minute painting technique adopted.

The painting was shown at the First Exhibition of Paintings by Giorgio de Chirico held in London in 1928 together with another twenty-three works, nearly all of which owned by Léonce Rosenberg, owner of the Galerie de L’Effort Moderne in Paris. Frank Rutter reviewed the exhibition as follows: “Although many things can be admired in De Chirico’s paintings, such as their sculptural construction, sense of tactile values, sombre precision, and resoluteness of line, our vision of his work would be entirely mistaken if while admiring the discernment of his eye and the obedience of his hand we forgot the role played by the mind that governs them. Every work by De Chirico expresses an idea, and it’s the philosophical content of his work that justifies his special place of honour even among our liveliest contemporary artists.”

The painting changed hands more than once in the past. On May 30, 1933, La notte di Pericle was sold during an auction held by Mak van Waay in Amsterdam; it next appeared at Pierre Matisse Gallery di New York, then at Galerie Beyeler in Basel. The painting entered the Carraro Collection in 1998, when it was auctioned at Christie’s, London, on December 10.


Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco, Paolo Baldacci (editor), Giorgio de Chirico, Paris 1924-1929. Dalla nascita del Surrealismo al crollo di Wall Street, Edizioni Philippe Daverio, Milan, 1982, cat. 40, ill. pages 490, 588; Claudio Bruni Sakraischik (editor), General Catalogue, Giorgio de Chirico. Opere dal 1908 al 1930, Electa, Milan, 1983, vol. VII, ill. 422; 20th Century Art I, Auction catalogue, Christie’s London, King Street, December 10, 1998, group 514.

Giorgio de Chirico
Oil on canvas. Signed and dated “G. De Chirico 1926” (lower left).
93×62 cm