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    Sale 7599

    Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

    24 June 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 74

    Óscar Domínguez (1906-1957)

    Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle

    Price Realised  


    Óscar Domínguez (1906-1957)
    Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle
    signed and dated 'Oscar Dominguez 1934' (upper left); signed and dated again 'Oscar Dominguez 1935' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    39½ x 31 7/8 in. (100.2 x 80.8 cm.)
    Painted in 1934-1935

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    Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle is one of Óscar Domínguez's most iconic masterpieces, dating from the exciting beginning of his association with André Breton and the Parisian Surrealists. This picture is filled with the unique atmosphere of sexuality and brutality that characterise the greatest of Domínguez's paintings, reflecting on his own troubled life and character while chiming perfectly with the weird and warped world of the Surrealists. The importance of Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle is reflected in its provenance and extensive exhibition history, which begins just after it was painted. It was initially owned by Eduardo Westerdahl, the main figure in the small Surrealist movement that had grown in Domínguez's native Canary Islands and the publisher of the Gaceta de Arte.

    The relationship between Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle and the Parisian Surrealists is clear from the theme itself, for this picture appears to be Domínguez's own twisted re-imagining of the celebrated phrase, 'Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table.' These words, taken from the Chants de Maldoror, the poems by the nineteenth-century writer Isidore Ducasse, the so-called Comte de Lautréamont, were considered a vital precursor of the Surrealist spirit. In Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle, the dissection appears to be under way. There is a strange abusive surgery being undertaken, the thread of the sewing machine replaced with blood which is being funnelled onto the woman's back. The plant itself may even echo Lautréamont's umbrella. Domínguez has taken one of the central mantras of Breton's Surreal universe and has pushed it, through a combination of painterly skill and semi-automatism, in order to create an absorbing and haunting vision that cuts to the quick of the movement's spirit.

    When Domínguez joined the Surrealists in Paris, he reinvigorated the movement, not least with some of his new ideas. For it was Domínguez who invented the decalcomania technique that would result in some of Max Ernst's greatest paintings. And he was also one of the great pioneers of the objet surréaliste. This is reflected in the strange arcade-game-like device that is shown in Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle, with its grapple claw and bizarre arrangement of objects, including the incongruous magnet hanging from a plant on the top. Teetering on the brink of our understanding and yet remaining determinedly elusive, this slanted approximation of an object from our own universe heightens the sense of the uncanny that is at work in the picture.

    Domínguez would only come into contact with the Surrealists in Paris in 1934, but he had been living there some of the time and already making his own investigations in that area following his initial meeting with Westerdahl in 1928. His background, including the unique landscape, the moon-like topography and alien-seeming plants of the Canaries, came to inform many of Domínguez's pictures, as is evident in the strange green that appears to be consuming the partially visible body of the woman; when, just after this picture was painted, several members of the Surrealist group in Paris made a visit, in part arranged by Domínguez, they were astonished to find the strange almost lunar volcanic landscape and the alien-seeming Dragon Trees. It appeared that the Surrealist landscape had somehow bled into reality. In Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle, the Dragon Tree is devouring the human figure, more Dragon than Tree.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Eduardo Westerdahl, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
    Galerie André François Petit, Paris (no. D.491).
    Galeria Biosca, Madrid (no. 150).
    Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner circa 1975.

    Pre-Lot Text



    E. Westerdahl, Óscar Domínguez, Barcelona, 1968, p. 23.
    Filipacchi (ed.), Óscar Domínguez, Paris, 1973 (illustrated p. 21).
    F. Castro, Óscar Domínguez y el Surrealismo, Madrid, 1978, no. VII, pp. 87 and 118.
    Exh. cat., 10x Max Ernst, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, 1978 (illustrated p. 35).
    R. de Sosa, Óscar Domínguez: l'oeuvre peint, catalogue raisonné, vol. I, Paris, 1989, no. 7 (illustrated p. 32).
    A. Zaya, Óscar Domínguez, Canarias, 1992 (illustrated p. 146). V. Bozal, Arte del siglo XX en España, Madrid, 1995 (illustrated p. 591).


    Santa Cruz, Círculo de Bellas Artes de Tenerife, La Exposición de Arte Contemporáneo, June 1936.
    Tel Aviv, Museum of Art, Surréalisme, December 1966 - January 1967, no. 25.
    Hamburg, Malerei des Surrealismus, April - May 1969, no. 37 (illustrated p. 43.)
    Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Surrealism?, March - April 1970, no. 21 (illustrated p. 75); this exhibition later travelled to Gothenburg, Konsthall, April - May 1970; Sundsvall, Museum, May - June 1970 and Malmö, Malmö Museum, June 1970.
    Bordeaux, Galerie des Beaux Arts, Surréalisme, May - September 1971, no. 64 (illustrated p. 52).
    Munich, Haus der Kunst, Der Surrealismus, 1922-1942, March - May 1972, no. 112 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Paris, Musée des Arts décoratifs, June - September 1972, no. 106.
    Madrid, Galería Biosca, Óscar Domínguez, October - November 1973, no. 13 (illustrated).
    Barcelona, Galería Laietana, Óscar Domínguez, February - March 1974, no. 31 (illustrated).
    Bern, Kunsthalle, Junggesellenmaschinen, les machines célibataires, July - August 1975 (illustrated p. 89).
    Paris, Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Le siècle de Picasso, October - November 1987, no. 69 (illustrated p. 124).
    Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, El Surrealismo entre Viejo y Nuevo Mundo, December 1989 - February 1990 (illustrated p. 147).
    Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, El Surrealismo en España, October 1994 - January 1995, no. 50 (illustrated p. 168).
    Vienna, Kunsthalle, Das Grausame Spiel. Surrealismus in Spanien, 1924-1936, May - July 1995 (illustrated p. 99).
    Verona, Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Dalí, Miró, Picasso e il Surrealismo Spagnolo, July - October 1995, no. 54 (illustrated p. 113).
    Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Óscar Domínguez, Antológica 1926-1957, January - March 1996, no. 17 (illustrated p. 101); this exhibition later travelled to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Centro de Arte La Granja, April - May 1996 and Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, June - September 1996.
    Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Máquinas, September - November, 2000.
    London, Tate Modern, Surrealism: Desire Unbound, September 2001 - January 2002 (illustrated fig. 241, p. 244).