The recent acquisition of Giorgio de Chirico’s Forbidden Toys isn’t about some toys left behind by children, but is a work from an early period of the important Italian painter. Thanks to a long-term loan from the bpd partners foundation, this painting will enrich the surrealist part of the Kunsthalle Praha collection, which includes works from artists such as Toyen and Jindřich Štyrský.

The Forbidden Toys (from the French original Les Jouets Défendus) originated in 1916 in the Italian city of Ferrara, where Giorgio de Chirico was deployed during World War I. It was in Ferrara that de Chirico developed his unique painting style, which Guillaume Apollinaire called metaphysical (Scuola Metafisica). Metaphysical painting later inspired the French surrealists, as well as many other artists, including Endre Nemes, whose Melancholy (1941) and Metaphysical Interior (1937) are a part of the Kunsthalle Praha collection.

Giorgio de Chirico sent The Forbidden Toys to his first art dealer, Paul Guillaume, who placed the work on the mantelpiece of his Paris apartment on the Avenue de Villiers. Evidence comes from a unique 1916 photograph capturing Paul Guillaume as he sits in a chair under The Forbidden Toys.

Between 1911 and 1918, in Giorgio de Chirico’s so-called “first metaphysical period,” the artist created identical or modified copies of his works. This makes The Forbidden Toys that much more interesting, because no other variation on this painting has been found until now. The painter may have been so satisfied with his work that he felt no need to change the painting in any way, or to disturb its uniqueness.

The Forbidden Toys were exhibited at Giorgio de Chirico’s first independent exhibition, on the Rue La Boëtie Gallery in Paris in 1922. The painting was accompanied by one called Playthings of the Prince (Les jouets du prince, 1915), which is similar to The Forbidden Toys not only in name, but also in the size of the canvas and its geometric composition. But these “twins” were separated in 1922, and have never been together since. Playthings of the Prince is now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Forbidden Toys, which was exhibited until this year at the Trade Fair Palace of the National Gallery in Prague, awaits its return to a white wall in Kunsthalle Praha. Maybe one day de Chirico’s twins will be reunited in an exhibition...

Giorgio de Chirico – The Forbidden Toys (Les jouets défendus), 1915–1916, oil on canvas, 55,4 x 25 cm
Giorgio de Chirico – Playthings of the Prince (Les jouets du prince), 1915,oil on canvas, 55,4 x 25 cm. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Photograth of Paul Guillaum from the year 1916 in his apartment in Avenue de Villiers, Paris. Giorgio de Chirico's painting The Forbidden Toys can be seen on the mantelpiece.

Kunsthalle Praha is a newly emerging space for art and culture in Prague’s historical centre. It will offer visitors a wide range of exhibitions and educational projects, cultural events and social activities. Kunsthalle Praha’s mission is to contribute to a deeper understanding of Czech and international art of the 20th and 21st centuries and to communicate this with a dynamic, contemporary programme to a broad public.