Giorgio de Chirico. The Song of Love. Paris, June-July 1914

Giorgio de Chirico

The Song of Love

Paris, June-July 1914

Oil on canvas
28 3/4 x 23 3/8" (73 x 59.1 cm)
Nelson A. Rockefeller Bequest
Object number
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view on Floor 5, in a Collection Gallery, with 9 other works online.
Giorgio de Chirico has 29 works  online.
There are 2,383 paintings online.

This painting brings together incongruous and unrelated objects: the head of a Classical Greek statue, an oversized rubber glove, a green ball, and a train shrouded in darkness, silhouetted against a bright blue sky. By subverting the logical presence of objects, de Chirico created what he termed "metaphysical" paintings, representations of what lies "beyond the physical" world. Cloaked in an atmosphere of anxiety and melancholy, de Chirico's humanoid forms, vacuous architecture, shadowy passages, and eerily elongated streets evoke the profound absurdity of a universe torn apart by World War I.

Gallery label from 2006

"M. Giorgio de Chirico has just bought a red rubber glove"—so wrote the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire in July of 1914, noting the purchase because, he went on to say, he knew the glove's appearance in de Chirico's paintings would add to their uncanny power. Implying human presence, as a mold of the hand, yet also inhuman, a clammily limp fragment distinctly unfleshlike in color, the glove in The Song of Love has an unsettling authority. Why, too, is this surgical garment pinned to a board or canvas, alongside a plaster head copied from a classical statue, relic of a noble vanished age? What is the meaning of the green ball? And what is the whole ensemble doing in the outdoor setting insinuated by the building and the passing train?

Unlikely meetings among dissimilar objects were to become a strong theme in modern art (they soon became an explicit goal of the Surrealists), but de Chirico sought more than surprise: in works like this one, for which Apollinaire used the term "metaphysical," he wanted to evoke an enduring level of reality hidden beyond outward appearances. Perhaps this is why he gives us a geometric form (the spherical ball), a schematic building rather than a specific one, and inert and partial images of the human body rather than a living, mortal being.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
1914 - at least 1924 [or 1927], Paul Guillaume, Paris.
By 1928 - October 1950, Marcel Raval, Paris.
October 1950 - 1979, Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, purchased from Marcel Raval.
1979, The Museum of Modern Art, New Yorkacquired by bequest from Nelson A. Rockefeller.

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