Il saluto degli Argonauti partenti (Argonauti II)
(La partenza degli Argonauti) (Il saluto degli Argonauti)

The Farewell of the Departing Argonauts (Argonauts II) (The Departure of the Argonauts) (The Farewell of the Argonauts)

1920

Accession year 1980

Tempera on canvas, 54 x 73 cm

Signed on the front, bottom right: “G. de Chirico PINXIT”

Collection Fondazione Francesco Federico Cerruti per l’Arte

Long-term loan Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin

Inv. no. CC.20.P. DEC.1920.A93

Provenance: Mario Broglio, Rome (no. 15, 19 November 1921, as La partenza degli Argonauti); Attilio Vallecchi, Florence (1922 – December 1929); Galleria Bardi, Milan, Raccolta Vallecchi, 17 December 1929 (lot 67, pl. 12, as Gli Argonauti); Daria Guarnati, Rome-Milan-Venice (until September 1938); Pietro Feroldi, Brescia (2 September 1938 – 1939); Galleria del Milione, Milan (no. 1439, 1 April 1939, dated 1922); Alberto Mondadori, Milan (1940-41); Galleria La Nuova Bussola, Turin (no. 5055, 15 January 1948, as Argonauti); Oreste Cacciabue, Milan (until at least 1970); Galleria Galatea, Turin.

Exhibitions: Milan 1921 (no. 23); Florence 1922b (p. 76, no. 15, as La partenza degli Argonauti); Milan 1929 (no. 67, pl. 12, as Gli Argonauti); Milan 1940 (cover and no. 1, dated 1922); Verbania 1954 (no. 11, as La partenza degli Argonauti, dated 1922); Turin 1961c; Turin 1964c (no. 14, dated 1922); Geneva 1965 (pp. 6-15, no. 15, as Le Départ des Argonautes, 1922); Florence 1967 (p. XXXIV, no. 943 e p. 189, as Partenza degli Argonauti, 1922); Milan-Hanover 1970 (nos 50, 51, dated 1922); Rome 1981-82 (cover and no. 30); New York- London 1982 (no. 119, pl. 81, as The Departure of the Argonauts, 1922); Munich-Paris 1982-83 (no. 62, as Der Aufbruch der Argonauten, 1921; Le Départ des Argonautes, 1921); Verona-Milan 1986-87 (pp. 58-59, ill.); Verona-Milan 1988-89 (p. 129, no. 2); Sansepolcro 1991 (no. 53); Düsseldorf 2001 (no. 99); Padua 2007 (pp. 162-163, no. 45, as La partenza degli Argonauti, 1921); C. Christov-Bakargiev, M. Beccaria, eds., Giorgio de Chirico. Capolavori dalla Collezione di Francesco Federico Cerruti, exhibition without catalogue (Rivoli, Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, 6 March – 27 May 2018); Rovereto 2021 (p. 201, pl. 88).

Bibliography: Lo Duca 1945, pl. XVI; Soby 1955, p. 140 (as The Departure of the Argonauts, 1922); Bruni 1971-87, vol. III, t. I, no. 191 (dated 1922, indicated in “Coll. privata Milano” [“Private coll. Milan”]); Far-de Chirico, Porzio 1979, pp. 187, 290 no. 92 (dated c. 1921); Fagiolo dell ’Arco 1980a, pp. 60-61 no. 90, 76 no. 132 (dated c. 1920); M. Fagiolo dell ’Arco, in Catalogo Nazionale Bolaffi 1980, pp. I, 83-84, no. 1; Fossati 1981, pp. 194- 195, no. 37 (dated 1921?); Fagiolo dell’Arco, Baldacci 1982, p. 34, ill.; Fagiolo dell’Arco 1984, pp. 107-108, no. 159 and pl. XLI; Jewell 2004, no. 4 (dated 1921); Dottori 2018, pp. 492-493 (as La partenza degli Argonauti); Benzi 2019, p. 246, ill.; The Cerruti Collection 2019, p. 35, ill.

Il saluto degli Argonauti partenti (The Farewell of the Departing Argonauts) is a manifesto painting that marks a turning point. In its style and technique, the work reflects the change that took place in Giorgio de Chirico’s work following his decision to remain in Italy and break free from his ties to the Parisian avant-garde.

The theme of travel represents a common trend throughout de Chirico’s first Metaphysical period, both in his writings and in his paintings, where the figures of Dante, Ulysses and Ariadne feature alongside trains, stations, ships, nautical charts and lighthouses.

Il saluto degli Argonauti partenti (The Farewell of the Departing Argonauts) is a manifesto painting that marks a turning point. In its style and technique, the work reflects the change that took place in Giorgio de Chirico’s work following his decision to remain in Italy and break free from his ties to the Parisian avant-garde. In terms of its theme, iconography and poetics, however, the painting can be linked to his artistic and intellectual upbringing, demonstrating how, even during his “return to the craft”, he pursued the ideas of his first Metaphysical period.

In May 1918, de Chirico took part in an exhibition of Italian painters at the Galleria L’Epoca in Rome.1 The artist placed great hope in the Roman scene.2 However, the exhibition was a fiasco that, paradoxically, coincided with the start of de Chirico’s Parisian success, thanks to the interest that his pre-1918 works, still present in Guillaume’s gallery, aroused in the emerging Surrealist group. At the end of the year, de Chirico moved from Ferrara to Rome, at the same time as Valori plastici magazine (1918-22) was launched in the capital.3 De Chirico and his brother Alberto Savinio contributed assiduously to this and other publications, which they used to defend their art. De Chirico began to frequent the museums in Rome and make copies of paintings by the great masters, developing an interest in traditional painting techniques. Describing himself as a “pictor classicus”, he therefore began his so-called Valori Plastici phase.4 After the further failure of a solo exhibition in Rome in early 1919, the painter decided to move to Milan at the end of the year and then, from there, to Florence in April 1920.5

In his essay “Pictorial Classicism”, he talks about the “linear demon”, namely the importance of drawing, which permeates the history of painting and architecture, from antiquity to the present day, passing through the Renaissance.6 Il saluto degli Argonauti partenti was contemporary to this essay, which evokes the architecture of Florence and the painting of Botticelli and Signorelli, alongside references to antiquity. A few months later, the painting was exhibited for the first time in de Chirico’s solo exhibition in Milan. The artist highlighted his Florentine inspiration in the catalogue.7 In addition to his style, his use of tempera was also inspired by 15th-century painting. The reference to the Renaissance in a painting with a classical subject matter reveals the continuity between the de Chirico of Plastic Values and the Metaphysical de Chirico, who experienced a revelation regarding his art in Florence in autumn 1909. The temple, the sail on the horizon and the classical melancholy figures evoke the iconography of Enigma di un pomeriggio d’autunno (Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon) (1909-10) and the personal mythology in which he pictured himself and his brother as ancient Dioscuri – the legendary brothers who took part in the Argonauts’ heroic expedition, setting out from Volos, the city where Giorgio was born. This association with the Dioscuri is already apparent in La partenza degli Argonauti (The Departure of the Argonauts) (1909), de Chirico’s first automythographical painting with an explicitly classical Greek setting.

The theme of travel represents a common trend throughout de Chirico’s first Metaphysical period, both in his writings and in his paintings, where the figures of Dante, Ulysses and Ariadne feature alongside trains, stations, ships, nautical charts and lighthouses. During the war, the association with heroic mythical travellers reflected the situation of the de Chirico brothers, as steadfast in seeking a national identity like the Argonauts of the Golden Fleece, and the separation of the pair in the middle of 1917, when Savinio left Ferrara for Thessaloniki, where he had been posted as an interpreter.8 At the end of the conflict, the theme of the heroic journey acquired an additional significance in relation to Giorgio’s efforts to establish himself in Italy, both alongside other artists but also in opposition to them, claiming his role as a founder of Metaphysical art.9

In April 1921, the painting entered the “Valori Plastici” collection, established by Mario Broglio (1891-1948), who had set up the magazine of the same name (Valori plastici).10 Luisa Mensi’s recent restoration of the back uncovered the work’s first label from the Milanese exhibition of that year. We can still read the artist’s name (“G. de Chirico”), the exhibition number (“23”), the title of the work (“Argonauti II”) and the collection (“[Valori] Plast[ici]”). Some French handwriting on the original stretcher, probably by the artist himself (“appartient à G. de Chirico/10”), confirms that, like other works loaned to Broglio, this one also remained the property of de Chirico until its sale. The work was sold when it was exhibited at the Fiorentina Primaverile in 1922, where it was purchased by the publisher Atillio Vallecchi, who already owned de Chirico’s Le muse inquietanti (Disquieting Muses, 1918), which he shortly afterwards traded with Giorgio Castelfranco for a painting by Ardengo Soffici.11 In 1938, Il saluto degli Argonauti partenti entered the Brescia-based collection of Pietro Feroldi (1881-1955). In April 1939, Feroldi exchanged the painting, together with another painting by de Chirico in his possession, with the Galleria del Milione in Milan, in payment for Castelfranco’s Le muse inquietanti.12 Il saluto degli Argonauti partenti was then sold by the Milione to Alberto Mondadori between the end of 1940 and the start of 1941.13 In January 1948, it was put up for sale through the Galleria la Nuova Bussola in Turin and entered the Milanese collection of Oreste Cacciabue, before returning to Turin, this time to Mario Tazzoli’s Galleria Galatea, where it was purchased by Cerruti before 1982.

[Silvia Loreti]

1 Rome 1918.

2 Baldacci 1997, p. 389.

3 Valori plastici 1918.

4 G. de Chirico, “Il ritorno al mestiere”, in Valori Plastici, 11-12, 1919, then in De Chirico 1985, pp. 93-99.

5 Rome 1919, no catalogue. The exhibition also included paintings that de Chirico asked Guillaume to send from Paris: Baldacci 1997, p. 404.

6 G. de Chirico, “Classicismo pittorico” in La Ronda, July 1920, then in De Chirico 1985, pp. 225-229.

7 De Chirico 1985, pp. 223-224. The title that de Chirico gave the painting on that occasion was The Farewell of the Departing Argonauts.

8 A. Savinio, “La partenza dell’Argonauta”, in Il Tempo, 1918, then in Savinio 1976, p. 143.

9 G. de Chirico, “Noi metafisici”, (15 February 1919), in De Chirico 1985, pp. 66-71.

10 G. de Chirico, “Elenco dei quadri e disegni dati al Signor Mario Broglio, 19 November 1921”, in Fagiolo dell’Arco 1980a, pp. 67-68, no. 15.

11 Rasario 2006, p. 290.

12 Appella 2003, pp. 126-128, 133-314 and note nos. 190-191, pp. 363-164.

13 Ibid., p. 230.