René Magritte (1898-1967)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF THE SCHERINGA MUSEUM OF REALIST ART
René Magritte (1898-1967)

La folie des grandeurs (Megalomania)

René Magritte (1898-1967)
La folie des grandeurs (Megalomania)
signed, dated and numbered 'Magritte 1967 1/5' (on the left thigh); inscribed with the foundry mark 'FONDERIA GI_BI_ESSE VERONA-ITALY' (to the left of the back of the upper base); signed and numbered again 'Magritte 1/5' (to the right of the back of the lower base)
bronze with golden brown patina
Height: 66 3/8 in. (168.6 cm)
Conceived in 1967 and cast in 1967 in an edition of five plus one artist's proof.
Alexandre Iolas, Paris.
Galerie Hopkins-Custot, Paris.
The Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, Spanbroek, by whom acquired from the above circa 2008.
P. Rouve, 'Space conquered', in Art and Artists, London, August 1968.
R. Melville, 'Changing the World', in The Architectural Review, London, September 1968, p. 209.
A.M. Hammacher, René Magritte, London, 1974, no. 67, p. 56 (another cast illustrated).
D. Sylvester, ed., René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III, Oil Paintings, Objects and Bronzes, 1949-1967, Antwerp, 1993, no. 1088, p. 460 (another cast illustrated).
Letter from R. Magritte to H. Torczyner, 17 June 1967, in Magritte/Torczyner, Letters Between Friends, New York, 1994, pp. 150-151 (another cast illustrated p. 150).
E. Ansenk (ed.), Schilders van een andere werkelijkheid: in de collectie van het Scheringa Museum voor Realisme, Zwolle, 2006, pp. 86-87 (illustrated p. 87).
D. Sylvester, Magritte, Brussels, 2009, p. 400 (another cast illustrated).
P. van der Lugt (ed.), Nieuw Realisme: 159 werken uit de collectie van het voormalige Scheringa Museum voor Realisme, Zwolle, 2010, p. 92 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Magritte: the 8 Sculptures, February 1969 (illustrated).
Athens, Galerie T. Zoumboulakis, Iolas, Magritte: sculptures, peintures, gouaches, dessins, 1971.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. VAT rate of 20% is payable on hammer price and buyer's premium

Lot Essay

A sequence of torsos of diminishing scale and increasing height are presented like a Russian doll, one within the other within the other... Created in 1967, La folie des grandeurs is one of a series of large bronzes that René Magritte had conceived of earlier that year under the encouragement of his friend and dealer Alexandre Iolas, who exhibited this cast two years later. This work shows a seemingly classical torso which echoes the plaster casts drawn by art students; rendered in bronze, the various images show an increasing section of the body: the largest in terms of scale shows only the woman's midriff; the next includes a further section, while the final, central element, which reaches down through the core of the composition, shows most of the female body plunging downwards between the other layers. This, then, is an intriguing, Magrittean progression of enlargements and reductions, with more of the body being seen in the smallest figure and less in the largest.

When Magritte had been asked by Iolas whether he had ever considered making sculptures, aside from the various objects he had already created over the years, he explained that he was only interested in taking ideas from his paintings and presenting them in the round. Accordingly, La folie des grandeurs brings into three dimensions the subject of two paintings of the same title, one of which is in the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC and the other in the Menil Collection, Houston; appropriately, each of those museums also possesses one of the casts of this sculpture, of which there are five numbered in the edition, plus an artist's proof.

La folie des grandeurs was the first of the group of eight bronzes that Magritte conceived in 1967: within weeks of his conversation with Iolas, he had provided drawings and precise measurements, revealing his incredible sensitivity to scale (see D. Sylvester, Magritte, Brussels, 2009, p. 399; Sylvester refers to La folie des grandeurs as 'perhaps the finest of the set'). This was also one of the first subjects to be cast, emerging from the Gibiesse Foundry in Verona only a few months after the death of the artist himself (see D. Sylvester (ed.), S. Whitfield & M. Raeburn, René Magritte Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. III, London, 1993, p. 460). The Galerie Isy Brachot would exhibit artist's proofs of all eight in the important posthumous retrospective held the following year in which 150 works were shown, granting these bronzes an impressive debut. Other sculptures in the series explored a range of Magritte's motifs, submitted to various transformations in order to make them coherent and all the more striking in their new three-dimensional formats, for instance La Joconde from the same year.

In La folie des grandeurs, Magritte has created a composition with the torso of a body emerging as though in telescopic form, each of the three segments on a successively different scale. This was the theme that was shown in the paintings of the same title; by propelling this theme into three dimensions, though, Magritte engages in a playful dialogue between painting and sculpture. For in the paintings, the sculpture was merely represented, given incongruous flesh tones; here, though, shown in the round and in bronze, there is a greater ambiguity regarding the status of the represented object: is this a sculpture of a section of a woman, or of a sculpture? This ambiguity is made all the more intriguing by the presence of a 1945 sculpture based on the same figure which was entitled La peinture, in which the artist had himself painted the flesh and other details onto the surface of the plaster cast, deliberately muddying its status. This is heightened by the fact that the original cast itself - which had already appeared in two of Magritte's paintings in 1932 and La lumière des coïncidences of 1933, now in the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts - may recall ancient statuary in its posture and the curtailed arms and neck, yet is considered to have been a life cast: this adds another layer of conceptual complexity and ambiguity to this representation of the female form, again blurring the line between reality and representation. This is a repercussion that continues to reverberate through the three representations of that original figure in La folie des grandeurs.

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