Revisited is a series in which writers look back on a work of art they first encountered long ago. Here, Cara Hoffman revisits Giorgio de Chirico’s Mystery and Melancholy of a Street.
I was fourteen when I first saw the evening sun setting an empty piazza aglow. This was in Vicenza, Italy. My older brother, who was stationed there during the Cold War, was getting married to an Italian woman who worked as a nurse, and my family had gone over to attend the wedding. The image is with me still: in a penumbra of orange, the clock tower cast a long shadow in the street as the high, darkened arches of the Basilica Palladiana breathed the cool power of a stone’s history into the fading light of the square.
The beauty of it was utterly foreign to me. I had lived, up to that point, in a prison town full of strip malls near a narrow highway in a Sears kit house; the blunt suburban ugliness of the place was further darkened by Appalachian poverty. And the only refreshing things my eyes knew were the river by my backyard and the wooded trails that flanked it. Vicenza was the first landscape I recognized as human. Read More