• 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 107

    René Magritte (1898-1967)


    Price Realised  


    René Magritte (1898-1967)
    signed 'Magritte' (on the back)
    oil painted glass bottle
    Height: 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm.)
    Painted circa 1959

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    A fire is seen on a beach, at what seems to be the entrance of a cave, implying an ancient notion of safety and comfort... When this image is on a bottle, though, what are we to assume is inside? Perhaps the essence of a fire-lit evening. On several occasions, from the early 1940s onwards, Magritte painted images on the outside of bottles; sometimes, these were in the form of mock labels, whereas sometimes, as here, the bottle appears to have been used in part because it is such a surreal support for a picture. One imagines some viewers wondering, Should a painting not be flat? Should a painting, in fact, not be a painting? Magritte, as ever, is shown playing with our assumptions about art, about objects, and indeed about the world around us. These are the kind of questions about the nature of existence that Magritte throws into play; in showing the image of a fire at the mouth of the cave, he implies that, like the chained people in Platos allegory of the cave, we have all hithertoo been too willing to understand an all-too-simple conception of our surroundings, of the nature of things, and only through his Surreal vision can come to understand the magic reality of life and the universe. And this sense of release is accentuated by the deliberate contrast between the expanse of the seascape and the necessary containment and confinement of the bottle itself.

    Feu-bouteille was created circa 1959; this is in part known by the fact that the catalogue raisonné records that, that same year, the artist placed it in a shoebox lined with paper and gave it to Harry Torczyner, an American lawyer who had become a close friend and correspondent of Magritte's and who would come to assemble one of the world's greatest collections of his works. This was in order that Torczyner could present it as a gift to the celebrated Belgian writer Baron Jan-Albert Goris (whose pseudonym was Marnix Gijsen) at a dinner being thrown in his honour for his sixtieth birthday (D. Sylvester (ed.), S. Whitfield & M. Raeburn, René Magritte Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. III, London, 1993, p. 453). It is a tribute to the way in which this object so perfectly encapsulates Magritte's unique vision that in the early 1960s it featured in a group of exhibitions in Brussels and in the United States, where Goris lived for many years.

    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.


    Jan Albert Goris (Marnix Gijsen), Antwerp, a gift from the artist in 1959, and thence by descent to the present owners.

    Pre-Lot Text



    The Minneapolis Star, 14 September 1962 (illustrated in photograph).
    Clés pour les arts, Brussels, April, 1971, p. 6.
    D. Sylvester (ed.), René Magritte, catalogue raisonné, Oil Paintings, Objects and Bronzes, 1949-1967, vol. III, London, 1993, no. 1077 (illustrated p. 453).


    Dallas, Museum for Contemporary Arts, René Magritte in America, December 1960 - January 1961, no. 74 (titled 'Le Rêve'); this exhibition later travelled to Houston, Museum of Fine Arts.
    New York, Albert Landry Galleries, René Magritte in New York Private Collections, October - November 1961, no. 30 (titled 'Le Rêve').
    Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, The Vision of René Magritte, September - October 1962, no. 67 (titled 'Le Présent').
    Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Métamorphose de l'objet: art et anti-art 1910-1970, April - June 1971; this exhibition later travelled to Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, June - August 1971; Berlin, Nationalgalerie, September - November 1971; Milan, Palazzo Reale, January - February 1972; Basel, Kunsthalle, March - April 1972 and Paris, Musée des Arts décoratifs, May - June 1972.