Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Property of an Important Collector
Joan Miró (1893-1983)

Le mangeur de gigot

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Le mangeur de gigot
signed 'Miró' (lower right); signed again, dated, titled and numbered 'MIRÓ. 18/IV/66 III LE MANGEUR DE GIGOT' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
38 x 51 ¼ in. (96.5 x 130 cm.)
Painted on 18 April 1966
Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, New York (acquired from the artist, 1967); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 7 May 2014, lot 34.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. Dupin and A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró: Catalogue Raisonné. Paintings 1959-1968, Paris, 2002, vol. IV, p. 189, no. 1241 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Derrière le miroir: Miró, l'oiseau solaire, l'oiseau lunaire, étincelles, April-May 1967, no. 16.
Mexico City, Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo, Joan Miró: La colección del Centro Georges Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne y otras colecciones, February-May 1998, pp. 188 and 268, no. 44 (illustrated in color, p. 189).
Sale room notice
This Lot is Withdrawn.

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Lot Essay

In 1925, beneath a patch of blue on gray oil color on an otherwise pale-toned canvas, Joan Miró inscribed one of his early painting-poems, “ceci est la couleur de mes rêves”—“this is the color of my dreams” (Dupin, no. 147). In the following year he painted Chien aboyant à la lune Dog Barking at the Moon in which a ladder ascends into a stark, black night sky (Dupin, no. 222). The monochrome black ground in Le mangeur de gigot The Eater of a Leg of Lamb, completed in Palma, Mallorca, on 18 April 1966, also conjures—the title notwithstanding—a nocturnal setting, a cosmic panorama of swirling galaxies, streaming comets, smudges of gaseous nebulae, as well as the single, oversized asterisk that the artist made prototypical and emblematic of all stars in the firmament.
“I believe in obscure forces,” Miró explained to Pierre Bourcier in 1968. “I believe in astrology. I am a Taurus, with Scorpio in the ascendant. Perhaps that is why there are spheres and circles in many of my paintings—to evoke the governing planets” (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 275).
Miró’s father was an amateur astronomer; the artist, too, became an inveterate stargazer. “The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me,” he declared to Yvon Taillandier in 1959 (quoted in ibid., p. 275). Miró enjoyed studying star charts, especially those antique versions in which illustrators, drawing on texts from antiquity, superimposed fanciful evocations of mythological figures on the heavens. This abiding fascination became the impetus for his celebrated series of Constellations, 1940-1941 (Dupin, nos. 628-650). Miró appears to have visualized in the darkness of the present canvas the lineaments of a constellation, perhaps Centaurus, the half-man, half-horse whom the ancients read in the stars as laying out a sacrifice on an altar. The mangeur in Miró’s title is the powerful god to be appeased, who has claimed and consumes the burnt offering, his portion of the sacrificial lamb. The constellation Centaurus contains two of the brightest stars in the night sky, designated Alpha and Beta Centauri, to which the glaring, circled eyes of le mangeur may be likened.
In accordance with Miró’s work habits, Le mangeur de gigot was probably well underway when he decided to title it. One may imagine the inspiration for this moment to have been as mundane as—during an evening out with his wife Pilar in a local restaurant—having observed a particularly gourmandizing diner nearby, enjoying his plate of lechazo. To this artist, one so well-tested and profoundly wise in the political struggles of the passing century in Europe, a man especially sensitive to the tragic outcome of such events in his native Spain, this ordinary sight could have resonated very strongly—even bringing to mind the figures that populate Goya’s “black paintings” in the Quinta del Sordo: The Fates, the two old men eating their soup, the old god Cronus devouring his own son to evade the prophecy that one of his children would dethrone him.
An emphatic black graphism generally prevailed in Miró’s paintings during the 1960s, most of which were composed directly on the gessoed canvas or over pale washes of tone. In these pictures Miró usually employed a forceful, gestural boldness in applying broad swathes of black paint—redolent of American Abstract Expressionism—which generate the composition and often corral the color forms within it. Relying instead, however, on the overall blackboard effect of his canvas in Le mangeur de gigot, Miró preferred to draw with the brush in a more linear manner to create his imagery, which is terse and minimal, like spontaneously executed grafitti, signs might one find scrawled on an urban wall or discover in the dark recesses of a Neolithic cave. “My desire is to attain a maximum intensity with minimum of means,” the artist explained to Taillandier. “That is why my painting has gradually become more spare. This tendency toward economy, toward simplification, can be seen in three areas: shading, color, and the representation of figures… Little by little I came to use only a small number of forms and colors… The frescoes of the tenth century were painted this way. For me, these are magnificent things” (quoted in ibid., pp. 251-252).
Miró often projected his serious post-war themes in an elusively allegorical manner, in clashing realities only he could connect, leavened with that nimble, disarmingly whimsical touch he typically brought to his work. “My painting can be considered humorous, even lighthearted, even though I am tragic,” he remarked to Taillandier (quoted ibid., p. 253). Miró wrote: “Is it not the essential self in the mysterious light that emanates from the secret source of one’s creative work, the thing that finally becomes the whole man? His true reality is there…a deeper, more ironical reality, indifferent to the one before our eyes, and yet it is the same reality. It need only be illuminated from below, by the light of a star. Then everything becomes strange, shifting, clear and confused at the same time. Forms give birth to other forms, constantly changing into something else. They become each other and in this way create the reality of the universe of signs and symbols in which figures pass from one realm to another, their feet touching the roots, becoming roots themselves as they disappear into the flowing hair of the constellations” (Statement in XXe Siècle, 1957; ibid., p. 240).

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