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Surrealism and metaphysical painting are probably not the first art movements that you associate with Rome. Even so, one of the great masters of these styles lived for a long time in the Italian capital. Giorgio de Chirico spent the last 30 years of his life on the Piazza di Spagna and his former apartment is now a museum.
According to de Chirico (1888-1978), the Piazza di Spagna was the centre of Rome, Rome was the centre of the world, and he therefore lived in the ´centre of the centre of the world´. After having spent various periods in several European cities and in New York, de Chirico finally settled down with his wife in the uppermost floors of the beautiful 17th-century Palazetto dei Borgognoni.
At the beginning of the 20th century, de Chirico was greatly inspired by the writings of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He attempted to convert the feel and mystique of the texts into paintings.
In 1910, he moved from Munich to Florence where he created his first metaphysical painting: The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon. This was the first work from the series of Italian city squares to which he would owe a large part of his later fame. These paintings are characterised by the mysterious emptiness and desolation radiated by the squares – rather like stepping into a dream world. De Chirico was therefore also a major influence for later surrealists, and far ahead of this movement. While the surrealists initially applauded his style, they quickly turned their backs on de Chirico when he became more interested in the Renaissance and Baroque periods in the early 1920s.
This art movement is at the foundation of modern Italian art. It’s characterised by a dream world of emptiness and silence, large shadows, oversized instruments and bright, strong colours. Objects and figures are depicted realistically but taken out of context and placed in new situations.
A tour of the Casa Museo di Giorgio de Chirico offers a unique insight into the life of this artist. The 1950s furniture and classic 17th-century architecture make for a fascinating visit. The first floor was mainly used by de Chirico for receptions and entertaining visitors. Marble tables, damask curtains and golden frames generate a classical, luxurious atmosphere. The house comprises mainly of works from the period 1940-1950, including self-portraits and a portrait of de Chirico’s wife Isabella. The second floor is more intimate: these are the private rooms of the painter, including the bedrooms and, most impressively, his studio, which has been largely restored to its original condition. De Chirico’s paint tubes and original palette are strewn around, making it seem like the painter might enter the room at any time to resume work. The third floor contains a large terrace where de Chirico often took breaks while working. If you see it you will understand why: the view over Rome is phenomenal!
Piazza di Spagna 31, Rome