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Art: Pegasus of Turin

2 minute read

Italy’s Giorgio de Chirico is the grandpa of a lot of enigmatic modern painting. His empty squares, staring arcades and twisted mannikins have become the common stage properties of surrealism. But De Chirico himself long ago abandoned surrealism for candy-box neoclassicism. So when Turin’s Fiat motor corporation wanted to celebrate its golden anniversary, De Chirico seemed just the man to help out with a portrait of the 1950 Fiat “1400.”

De Chirico’s fee was his model, worth $2,145. In ten days he dashed off a picture in which Pegasus, led by a hero in a floating red robe, descends to snort at a gleaming new blue Fiat. Above it, like a vision in the pearly clouds, appears the first Fiat, produced 50 years ago.

But Fiat’s technical-minded directors complained that De Chirico had made their car’s hood too long and its body too short. Besides, the whole thing was out of perspective. Nonsense, cried De Chirico: “I did not want to follow the usual line of ad painting based on cubism, abstractionism and all the other isms. I always make it a point to paint things precisely as they are.”

Last week the directors gave in. They placed an order for 20,000 posters and 100,000 postcard reproductions of the painting, duly dispatched a Fiat “1400” to Painter de Chirico in return.

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