"Disquieting Muses" is a 1918 oil on canvas painting by Giorgio de Chirico. It measures 48.5 by 34.5 centimeters.
De Chirico was one of the founders and leaders of metaphysical painting.
“Disquieting Muses” is an excellent example of this avant-garde movement’s approach.
Metaphysical artwork was characterized by enigmatic images that challenge logic and disorientate the observer. Objects were clearly depicted and easy to recognize, but often appeared out of context and devoid of any obvious logic. This kind of painting called into question the usual way of looking at things. The observer was compelled to make unexpected associations. This kind of painting suggested meanings beyond everyday reality, hence the name "metaphysical."
"Disquieting Muses" was completed in March of 1918, towards the end of World War One. It depicts two mannequin heads surrounded by drawing instruments, including wooden squares and triangles.
The head in the foreground is an empty, dark cavity bisected by a wooden triangle that gives it a kind of face. A jaunty multicolored cap covers the top of the head.
The second head, rising out of the shadows in the background, is a smooth compact oval. The head is white and crisscrossed by mysterious black marks. It seems to peer out at the observer.
A sliver of urban landscape can be seen in the background on the right. It is a silent and deserted city, commemorating the earlier Italian piazza paintings de Chirico made in the 1910s.
The muses are two mannequins in the foreground. Mannequins were one of the most frequently recurring subjects in de Chirico's works. Inanimate and silent, they stand in for the human figure and take on different symbolic meanings. They have no eyes or mouths, suggesting the inability to see or talk.
In de Chirico's metaphysical world, however, blindness and silence are not real limitations. Those who cannot see ordinary reality often have more clarity of vision, like the blind poets and soothsayers of old.
In many ancient societies, people believed that those who are unable to speak had the ability to communicate with the divine.
These metaphysical mannequins express the ability to transcend everyday experience, showing meanings that extend beyond visible reality.
“Disquieting Muses” is currently part of a private collection.