• Impressionist/Modern Day Sale auction at Christies

    Sale 7833

    Impressionist/Modern Day Sale

    3 February 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 458

    René Magritte (1898-1967)

    Portrait de René Gaffé

    Price Realised  


    René Magritte (1898-1967)
    Portrait de René Gaffé
    signed 'Magritte' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    21 5/8 x 17¾ in. (55.3 x 45 cm.)
    Painted in 1942

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    Born in Brussels in 1887, René Gaffé was one of the foremost collectors of modern art of his generation and one of Magritte's earliest patrons. An avid supporter of the Surrealist poets and a great friend of both André Breton and Paul Eluard, this relationship profoundly influenced his collecting tastes throughout his life. Gaffé dedicated nearly all his resources to acquiring, usually directly from the artists, works of art that his infallible intuition told him would eventually qualify as masterpieces. In his 1963 publication, A la Verticale, in which he reflects upon the passion of his collecting, Gaffé recalled sitting for Magritte for the present portrait:

    'He had offered to 'do' my portrait during one of those endless war-time years, when entertainment was scarce. The scene took place in the impeccably tidy kitchen which he used as his studio, at the far end of that sinister street, the rue d'Esseghem, that he was particularly fond of for all sorts of reasons that escaped us and that he finally agreed to abandon in favour of a respectable residential area. In his old house, Dr. Robert Cocriamont shot a film based on a scenario by Paul Nougé, in which my wife and I, wearing African masks, played modest walk-on parts...

    'In three short sittings, Magritte finished my portrait with prodigious skill. He abstained from playing the part of the blind Cyclops and from striking poses as a Maestro dealing with a client, because no one could be more unassuming. He refrained from the usual practice of putting me in front of a flattering mirror, since he knew my dislike for the make-believe of official portrait painting. Consequently, no problem arose about the setting, and he painted me exactly as I was at that time, simply substituting my image for reality. It was perhaps not very Magritte-like, but it was me, without any possible doubts, a coloured truth with which I am very satisfied' (R. Gaffé, op. cit., pp. 124-125).

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Mr & Mrs René Gaffé, New York, by whom acquired directly from the artist; their sale to benefit UNICEF, Christie's, New York, 6 November 2001, lot 21.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    Letter from Magritte to Nougé [1942, probably August], in Magritte, Nougé, no. 4 (incorrectly dated 1939; per D. Sylvester and S. Whitfield).
    R. Gaffé, A la verticale: Réflexions d'un collectionneur, Brussels, 1963, pp. 124-125 (illustrated on the back cover).
    D. Sylvester (ed.), René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, Oil Paintings and Objects 1931-1948, London, 1993, no. 506 (illustrated p. 300).