This still life is exceptional in the oeuvre of this artist, whose acclaimed magical Italian cityscapes of 1911 to 1917 would influence the Surrealists a decade later. Painted wood elements, among them a pink-dotted French curve, blue-and-white meter stick, and right angles, are stacked pell-mell above what might be kilometer markers. Among these objects, an oversize eye, crudely drawn on a large piece of paper, surprises. De Chirico's father was an engineer with a railroad company, and it has been suggested that this scaffoldlike structure and eye might be an abstract portrait of him.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): G. de Chirico/ 1916
[Paul Guillaume, Paris]; René Gaffé, Brussels (by 1929–37; sold in July 1937, through the dealer E. L. T. Mesens, to Penrose); Roland Penrose, London (1937–78; sold in April 1978 to Thaw); [E. V. Thaw & Co., Inc., New York, 1978; sold on November 10, 1978 to Gelman]; Jacques and Natasha Gelman, New York (1978–his d. 1986; her d. 1998)
Paris. Galerie Devambez. "Exposition de peinture moderne," January 27–February 12, 1920, no. 7 (as "L'Ange juif").
Paris. Paul Guillaume. "Exposition Giorgio de Chirico," June 4–15, 1926, no. 8 (as "L'Ange Juif") [probably this picture].
London. New Burlington Galleries. "The International Surrealist Exhibition," June 11–July 4, 1936, no. 56 (as "The Jewish Angel," 1917, lent by Mons. René Gaffé, Brussels).
Galerie Beaux-Arts, Paris. "Exposition internationale du surréalisme," January–February 1938, no. 40 (as "L'ange juif," 1916, lent by R. Penrose).
London Gallery Ltd. "Giorgio de Chirico (1911–1917)," October 14–November 12, 1938, no. 11 (as "The Jewish Angel II," lent by Roland A. Penrose, London) [catalogue published in "London Bulletin" no. 6, October 1938, pp. 13, 18].
Cambridge, England. Arts Council Gallery. "Cubist and Surrealist Paintings 1903–1938 From the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Roland Penrose," July 7–20, 1954, no. 6 (as "Jewish Angel II").
Wisbech, England. Peckover House. "Cubist and Surrealist Paintings 1903–1938 From the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Roland Penrose," July 24–31, 1954, no. 6.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage," March 27–June 9, 1968, no. 43 (lent by the Penrose Collection, London).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage," July 16–September 8, 1968, no. 43.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage," October 19–December 8, 1968, no. 43.
London. Hayward Gallery. "Dada and Surrealism Reviewed," January 11–March 27, 1978, no. 1.15 (lent by a private collection).
Cleveland Museum of Art. "The Spirit of Surrealism," October 3–November 25, 1979, no. 17 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Jacques Gelman).
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "De Chirico," March 30–June 29, 1982, no. 59 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Jacques Gelman, Mexico City).
Venice. Palazzo Grassi. "Effetto Arcimboldo," February 14–May 31, 1987, unnumbered cat. (p. 255; lent by a private collection).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Italian Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1900–1988," January 14–April 9, 1989, no. 49 (lent by the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," December 12, 1989–April 1, 1990, unnumbered cat. (p. 146).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," April 19–July 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "De Matisse à Picasso: Collection Jacques et Natasha Gelman," June 18–November 1, 1994, unnumbered cat. (p. 170).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painters in Paris: 1895–1950," March 8–December 31, 2000, extended to January 14, 2001, unnumbered cat. (p. 83).
Ferrara. Palazzo dei Diamanti. "De Chirico a Ferrara: Metafisica e Avanguardie," November 14, 2015–February 28, 2016, no. 12.
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. "Giorgio de Chirico: Magie der Moderne," March 18–July 3, 2016, no. 12.
Pierre Courthion and Angelo Bardi. Sélection: Chronique de la vie artistique. 3me sér., Vol. 8, Giorgio de Chirico. Antwerp, 1929, ill. p. 46, as in the collection of René Gaffé, Brussels.
Nino Frank. "Giorgio de Chirico et Alberto Savinio." Cahiers de Belgique 2 (April 1929), ill. p. 131, as in the collection of René Gaffé.
Herbert Read, ed. Surrealism. London, , pl. 20, locates it in the René Gaffé collection.
James Thrall Soby. The Early Chirico. New York, 1941, pp. xi, 66, pl. 52, as "The Jewish Angel—II"; refers to "The Two Sisters" (1915; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf) as the first version of "The Jewish Angel," then also in the Penrose collection.
Giorgio de Chirico. "A Fragment of Hebdomeros." Arson (March 1942), ill. p. 28.
René Gaffé. Giorgio de Chirico, le Voyant. Brussels, 1946, p. 10, pl. 14.
Herbert Read. Art Now: An Introduction to the Theory of Modern Painting and Sculpture. 3rd rev. and enlarged ed. (1st ed., 1933). London, 1948, pl. 86, dates it 1917.
Jacques Lassaigne inHistory of Modern Painting. Vol. 3, From Picasso to Surrealism. Geneva, 1950, pp. 108–9, ill. (color), as "Jewish Angel II".
René Gaffé. "Confessions of a Collector." Magazine of Art 44 (October 1951), p. 212, ill.
Raffaele Carrieri. Avant-Garde Painting and Sculpture (1890–1955) in Italy. 2nd rev. ed. (1st ed., Italian, 1950). Milan, 1955, pp. 14 (English translation), 131, pl. 129, calls it "The Judean Angel".
James Thrall Soby. Giorgio de Chirico. New York, , p. 113, ill. p. 224.
René Gaffé. À la Verticale: Réflexions d'un collectionneur. Brussels, 1963, p. 102, ill. p. 116.
William S. Rubin. Dada and Surrealist Art. New York, 1968, pp. 126, 217, 477, fig. 117.
John Ashbery. "Growing Up Surreal." Art News 67 (May 1968), pp. 43–44, ill.
William S. Rubin. Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 1968, pp. 82, 102, 231, no. 43, fig. 105.
Claudio Bruni. Catalogo Generale Giorgio de Chirico. Vol. 1, pt. 1–3, Opere dal 1908 al 1930. [Milan], 1971, pl. 33.
Artemis 77–78: Consolidated Audited Annual Report (1978), pp. 48–49, no. 20, ill. (color), states that its title "is unquestionably the artist's own"; suggests that the eye might "refer to an optician's sign or chart seen" in the shops of the ghetto in Ferrara, where de Chiricio was stationed by the military in 1915; notes that the scaffolding is either comprised of drafting tools like those used by de Chirico's engineer father or easels and canvas stretchers.
Dawn Ades. Dada and Surrealism Reviewed. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. [London], 1978, p. 22, no. 1.15, ill., dates it 1916–17.
Edward B. Henning. The Spirit of Surrealism. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 1979, pp. 53, 172, no. 17, ill. p. 55.
Edward B. Henning. "Surrealism: In the Footsteps of Freud." Art News 79 (May 1980), ill. p. 123 (color).
Roland Penrose. Scrap Book, 1900–1981. New York, 1981, fig. 442.
Anna Maria Del Monte inGiorgio de Chirico, 1888–1978. Exh. cat., Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna. Vol. 1, "Catalogo."[Rome], 1981, p. 72, under no. 12.
Ester Coen. "Catalogo: Giorgio de Chirico." La Metafisica: Museo documentario. Casalecchio di Reno [Bologna], 1981, p. 197, no. 85, ill. p. 277 (color).
Edward B. Henning. "Giorgio de Chirico: The Metaphysical Paintings." Museum 3 (May/June 1982), p. 71, ill. p. 73.
William Rubin inDe Chirico. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 1982, pp. 67–69, fig. 18 and colorpl. 59, identifes the polka-dotted curved tool as an Irregular Curve, used by engineers of rail lines; calls the scaffolding "a human analogue" related to the Picasso-influenced father image in "The Child's Brain" (1914; Moderna Museet, Stockholm).
Marianne W. Martin inDe Chirico. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 1982, p. 89, relates the eye to Karagöz, a central character in Greek shadow-theater identifiable by his heavily outlined, oversized eye; suggests that this painting is a portrait.
Jeanne Siegel. "The Image of the Eye in Surrealist Art and its Psychoanalytic Sources, Part One: The Mythic Eye." Arts Magazine 56 (February 1982), pp. 103–4, ill. p. 102, suggests the eye may represent the Angel of Death.
Jean-Charles Gateau. Paul Éluard et la Peinture Surréaliste (1910–1939). Geneva, 1982, p. 97, erroneously states that this picture was owned by Eluard.
Robert Hughes. "The Enigmas of De Chirico." Time (April 12, 1982), pp. 70–71, ill. (color).
Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco. L'opera completa di De Chirico, 1908–1924. Milan, 1984, p. 98, no. 106, ill. and colorpl. XXVI.
Jerrold Levinson. "Titles." Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 44 (Autumn 1985), p. 36.
Milly Heyd. "De Chirico: 'The Greetings of a Distant Friend'." Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Art. Ed. Mary Mathews Gedo. Vol. 3, Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1988, pp. 107–11, 115, 124–25, fig. 1, interprets this picture in relationship to the artist's conflict with his father, drawing parallels with the angel of death in de Chirico's novel, "Hebdomeros"; discusses the eye as the embodiment of Jewish guilt.
Sabine Rewald inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 145–47, 297, ill. (color and bw), suggests that the eye may represent God, with the title referencing one of His messengers.
William S. Lieberman inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, p. 13.
Dawn Ades inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, p. 41, notes that the eye may represent a self-portrait, seer, or prophet.
Paolo Baldacci inItalian Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1900–1988. Ed. Emily Braun. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. Munich, 1989, pp. 67, 416, no. 49, ill. (color).
Matthew Valence Gale. "The Enigma of Fatality: The Work of Giorgio de Chirico, 1909–1924." PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 1992, vol. 1, pp. 214–15, 223, 230; vol. 3, fig. 124, remarks that the title of this picture suggests the "unexpected cultural tension" between Christianity and Judaism experienced in the Ferrarese ghetto; notes that the eye may represent the act of painting, and the angel a connection to the Greek messenger god, Hermes as "an affirmation of the coming of a new artistic era".
Paolo Baldacci. Giorgio de Chirico. Betraying the Muse: De Chirico and the Surrealists. Exh. cat., Paolo Baldacci Gallery. New York, 1994, p. 134, fig. 125.
Paolo Baldacci. De Chirico: The Metaphysical Period, 1888–1919. Boston, 1997, pp. 327, 331, 430, 432–34, 442, no. 116, ill. (color), asserts that de Chirico gave this picture its title, inspired by "the study of the Jewish tradition" and store windows seen in the Ferrara ghetto.
Grace Glueck. "When One City Was the Heart of Art's Youth." New York Times (March 10, 2000), p. E39.
Antony Penrose. The Home of the Surrealists: Lee Miller, Roland Penrose and Their Circle at Farley Farm. London, 2001, pp. 41, 140.
Antony Penrose. Roland Penrose: The Friendly Surrealist. Munich, 2001, pp. 83, 86, notes that Gaffé, in ill health, attempted to sell his collection at the Zwemmer Gallery [Exh. London 1937] and when most of the paintings remained unsold [including this picture], the dealer Mesens persuaded Penrose to purchase them for a total of £6,750.
Wieland Schmied. Giorgio de Chirico: The Endless Journey. Munich, 2002, pp. 88–89, 91, ill. (color), suggests it may be a self-portrait.
Claudio Crescentini. "De Chirico e le Avanguardie: rapporti." G. de Chirico: Nulla Sine Tragoedia Gloria. Ed. Claudio Crescentini. Florence, 2002, p. 75.
Magdalena Holzhey. Giorgio de Chirico, 1888–1978: The Modern Myth. Cologne, 2005, pp. 46, 50, ill. p. 54 (color).
Adriano Altamira. "De Chirico e Duchamp." Metafisica no. 5/6 (2005–6), pp. 73, 86, fig. 5.
Deborah Walker. Giorgio de Chirico and the Real: Art, Enigma and Nietzschean Innocence. Saarbrücken, 2008, p. 55.
Victoria Noel-Johnson inGiorgio de Chirico: La Suggestione del Classico. Exh. cat., Galleria Civica d'Arte, Cava de'Tirreni. Milan, 2009, p. 17, fig. 5 (color).
Claudio Crescentini. Giorgio de Chirico: L'Enigma Velato. [Rome], , p. 115, fig. 71, colorpl. XV, erroneously as still in a private collection.
Victoria Noel-Johnson inDe Chirico a Castel del Monte. Il Labirinto dell'Anima. Exh. cat., Castel del Monte, Andria. Milan, 2011, pp. 29–30, fig. 16 (color).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, p. 412, ill. (color).
Ara H. Merjian. Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Modernism, Paris. New Haven, 2014, pp. 187, 234, 258, fig. 200.
Ara H. Merjian inDe Chirico a Ferrara: Metafisica e Avanguardie. Ed. Paolo Baldacci. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti. Ferrara, 2015, pp. 62–63, 71.
Charles Stuckey inDe Chirico a Ferrara: Metafisica e Avanguardie. Ed. Paolo Baldacci. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti. Ferrara, 2015, p. 94.
Paolo Baldacci and Gerd Roos inDe Chirico a Ferrara: Metafisica e Avanguardie. Ed. Paolo Baldacci. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti. Ferrara, 2015, p. 195, no. 12, ill. p. 198 (color).
The provenance and exhibition history of this picture has sometimes been confused with that of "The Two Sisters" (1915; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf). The latter, previously known as "The Jewish Angel," was also owned by Roland Penrose, who acquired it from Paul Eluard.