Giorgio de Chirico is not unlike a rock star in terms of his career trajectory. His greatest and most seminal work was done when he was young — between the ages of 23 and 32 — after which he lost much of his “edge,” but kept going by rehashing his earlier career, mixing it with the less adventurous but still interesting output of his later years.

This presents interesting challenges for a retrospective of the artist’s work. But the curators of “Giorgio de Chirico: De la Metafisica a la Neo Metafisica,” an exhibition at the Shiodome Museum, seem to have coped ably.

Sourced from the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the main focus of the show — as indicated by its title — is on his early “metaphysical” paintings and versions of them he did later in life. The exhibition includes a few of the original works, including one of the best known, “Hermetic Melancholy” (1919), as well as dozens of later copies, his so-called neo-metaphysical works.

With less space to play with than most of its competitors, the Shiodome always tries that little bit harder in other areas, with excellent arrangement, interior decoration and lighting — the latter greatly helped by the fact that the museum is owned by the Panasonic electronics corporation, with its vast technical resources.

The centerpiece of this exhibition is a case in point. It is a brilliantly lit bronze sculpture, not actually made by De Chirico but a rendition, made after his death, of two figures from “The Disquieting Muses,” a particularly important work painted between 1916 and 1918. The exhibition has a later copy dated 1974.

This image inspired Sylvia Plath’s poem of the same name, which describes “ladies … with heads like darning-eggs to nod and nod.” And this is exactly what the sculpture’s figures seem to do, as their shadows move first together then apart in what is clearly an impossible way. The trick is achieved by a projector in place of what at first appears to be a light source, and the shadows are actually animated creations.

The way in which the “shadows” are distorted in this installation is the quickest introduction to the essence of De Chirico’s metaphysical paintings, which also used misaligned shadows to create subtle tensions and surreal effects, along with oddly chosen subject matter, including mannequins with heads shaped like “darning eggs.”

By the time the Surrealists became enthralled with the dreamlike resonances of these paintings, De Chirico had already moved on and was painting works that looked back to earlier artistic traditions. But even at his most conventional, there is usually a twist or hidden trick with De Chirico.

“Giorgio de Chirico: De la Metafisica à la Metafisica” at the Shiodome Museum runs till Dec. 26; open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. ¥1,000. Closed Wed. panasonic.co.jp/es/museum

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