• The Art of the Surreal Evening auction at Christies

    Sale 7903

    The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale

    2 February 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 104

    René Magritte (1898-1967)

    Le faux miroir

    Price Realised  


    René Magritte (1898-1967)
    Le faux miroir
    signed 'Magritte' (lower right); dated and titled '"LE FAUX MIROIR" 1952' (on the reverse)
    gouache on paper
    5 5/8 x 7½ in. (14.5 x 19.2 cm.)
    Executed in 1952

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    Executed in 1952, Le faux miroir is a gouache reprisal of one of Magritte's most famous images, Oeil de ciel. Despite its fame, this image was one that Magritte explored in only four versions. The original 1929 oil painting of this subject, which was one of the earliest purchases of the Museum of Modern Art in New York when they acquired it in 1937, was formerly in the collection of Man Ray, the celebrated Surrealist; clearly it would have been a highly apt subject for the photographer. It is perhaps telling that Magritte executed this gouache in 1952, engaging in an act of retrospection and revisiting the subject of one of his most-recognised early masterpieces. For it was during precisely that year that the artist was given his first proper retrospective since the Second World War, which was held at the Casino Communal in Knokke-Le Zoute, allowing Magritte to look at the arc of his development as an artist and reengage with some of his older themes and subjects. It is a mark of the importance and quality of this gouache, in turn, has been widely exhibited, not least in the lifetime retrospective held in Liège in 1960, which at the time was one of the largest exhibitions to be dedicated to the artist.

    Discussing the genesis of this image in its 1929 incarnation, which is extremely close to this gouache, Magritte explained: 'One of the justifications for this image is the isolation of the images perceived in the eye (we see nothing around the image we are looking at, at the moment when we look at it)' (Magritte, quoted in D. Sylvester, René Magritte Catalogue Raisonné, Vol.I, London, 1992, p. 342). This, then, is a picture about seeing, and it is perhaps this which is referenced by its title, which was originally conceived by Magritte's friend and fellow Surrealist, the poet Paul Nougé: looking at this 'false mirror', we become involved in a mysterious and oblique reflection, a tangential feedback loop. At the same time, Le faux miroir introduces a poetic variation of the notion that the eyes are the windows of the soul, capturing that sense of depth that can be found within them. Magritte has thus created his own unique take on the ancient trope of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

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    Eric Uytborck, Brussels, by 1960 until at least 1973.
    Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in March 1986.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Le monde des grands musées, Paris, 1970, no. 24 (illustrated on the cover).
    D. Sylvester, René Magritte, catalogue raisonné, Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés 1918-1967, vol. IV, London, 1994, no. 1321 (illustrated p. 137).


    Liège, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Exposition Magritte, October - November 1960, no. 16.
    Coimbra, Le Ministère de la Culture, Dessins et aquarelles belges, 1963.
    London, Marlborough Fine Art, Magritte, October - November 1973, no. 25 (illustrated p. 76).
    Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, René Magritte, November 1998 - February 1999, no. 18.
    Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, René Magritte, December 1999 - March 2000 (illustrated).