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The window and the map with a traced route evoke ideas of travel, suggesting escape from a cluttered, claustrophobic studio. As a child in Greece, de Chirico, who was an Italian, felt detached from his surroundings and identified with the voyaging Argonauts of Greek mythology. He imagined their journey ‘of profundity and solitude’ across ‘measureless oceans’. The Melancholy of Departure was painted after de Chirico had returned from Paris to Italy to serve in the First World War.

September 2012