Posted by: glue | July 26, 2010



In the context of his inquiry into “compulsive beauty” Hal Foster refers to a memory reported by de Chirico, who elaborated the scene in numerous early paintings.  Foster notes that this scene ultimately is elaborated in all de Chirico’s work.

One clear autumnal morning I was sitting on a bench in the middle of the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence.  It was of course not the first time I had seen this square. I had just come out of a long and painful intestinal illness, and I was in a nearly morbid state of sensitivity.  The whole world, down to the marble of the buildings and the fountains, seemed to me to be convalescent.  In the middle of the square rises a statue of Dante draped in a long cloak, holding his works. . . . Then I had the strange impression that I was looking at all these things for the first time, and the composition of my picture came to my mind’s eye.  Now each time I look at this painting I again see that moment.  Nevertheless, that moment is an enigma to me, for it is inexplicable.  And I like also to call the work which spring from it an enigma (de Chirico, in Hal Foster, Compulsive Beauty).

The memory is not a “primal scene” since it is not from childhood, but it illustrates how an epiphany creates a necessary interface, an extimacy, between an external scene and a state of mind.

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