Giorgio de Chirico


The Soothsayer's Recompense, 1913

About the Artwork

Giorgio de Chirico embraced enigma as the central theme in his painting and writing. To this end, he collided styles and imagery from the past and present, fusing them into an art of evocative ambiguity. In The Soothsayer's Recompense, he employed a precise painting style and linear perspective, familiar since the Renaissance as means of representing three-dimensional space. But rather than promoting legibility, here these devices are subverted, serving instead as instruments of poetic and philosophical suggestion. The tower, colonnades, and smokestack (which could belong to either a train or a factory) are frequent props in the artist's dream worlds. While together they evoke the melancholy that De Chirico associated with northern Italian cities, each refers to a different epoch--medieval, Renaissance, and industrial, respectively--thereby defying a stable location in time or place. The classical statue of Ariadne, darkened by a long shadow that dominates the foreground, underscores this melancholy, for she was the Greek princess deserted by Theseus after helping him to escape the Labyrinth. John B. Ravenal, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 309

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