Carlo Carrą

/Works and biography


The Engineer’s Mistress (L’amante dell’ingegnere), 1921
Oil on canvas, 55 x 40 cm
Gianni Mattioli Collection
Long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
© Carlo Carrą, by SIAE 2008

This powerful and strange small painting closed the period of Carlo Carrą's ''pittura metafisica,'' of which he was one of the leading exponents together with Giorgio de Chirico.
Although evidently a mere sculpture, the upright female head is invested with an aura of semi-consciousness, as if hypnotized—the eyes closed but the mouth open in readiness to speak. The preternaturally long neck appears frequently in Carrą's work prior to this. Certainly the tension between the dead and the live in an indeterminate interior-exterior space and in a pre-dawn light evokes a Metaphysical dream state with masterly brevity. No explanation of the title has ever been given. To suggest that the square and compass represent the engineer's profession and the plaster head his secret life impoverishes the richly evocative mystery of the painting. The goal of Metaphysical painting was to make ordinary objects transcend reality and induce an elevated state of consciousness.

credits: Hangar Design Group