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The Philosopher's Conquest

Surrealist painting of cannon, artichokes, clock, train, desolate backdrop.
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome

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  • Surrealist painting of cannon, artichokes, clock, train, desolate backdrop.




Giorgio de Chirico
Italian, born Greece, 1888–1978

About this artwork

The work of Giorgio de Chirico represents an unexpected form of classicism in early avant-garde painting. This canvas, one of six in a series, combines a Mediterranean cityscape with still-life objects. Familiar elements appear in many of de Chirico’s paintings like pieces of a mysterious puzzle: a classical arcade, oddly oversize artichokes, a cannon and cannonballs, a clock, an industrial brick chimney, a monumental tower, a running train, and a square-rigged sailing ship. Here the stage set for this extraordinary juxtaposition of objects is an Italian piazza, virtually deserted except for the menacing shadowy figures outside the edge of the scene.

De Chirico represented objects with a matter-of-fact, though intentionally crude, precision. He painted his scenes flatly, in bright colors, and illuminated them with a cold white light. Rendered in this clear style, works like The Philosopher’s Conquest seem rife with meaning, though they remain resolutely enigmatic. Indeed, by juxtaposing incongruous objects, the artist sought to produce a metaphysical quality, what he called “art that in certain aspects resembles … the restlessness of myth.” De Chirico’s works would profoundly affect the Surrealists, who in the 1920s and 1930s attempted to portray dreams and images of the subconscious in their work.


On View, Gallery 396


Modern Art


Giorgio de Chirico


The Philosopher's Conquest


Italy (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


Signed, l.r.: "G. de Chirico"


125.1 × 99.1 cm (49 1/4 × 39 in.)

Credit Line

Joseph Winterbotham Collection

Reference Number



© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome

Extended information about this artwork

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