2 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, FLORIDA

Ferret Race (Stoat Race)

Ferret Race (Stoat Race)
signed, dated and inscribed 'LEONORA CARRINGTON 1952 FERRET RACE' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 22 in. (100.3 x 55.2 cm.)
Painted in 1952
Maureen Moorehead Carrington, Isle of Man, United Kingdom [the artist's mother], and thence by descent; sale, Christie's, New York, 28 May 1998, lot 113.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
W. Chadwick, Leonora Carrington, La realidad de la imaginación, Mexico City, 1994, no. 27, p. 162 (illustrated n.p.; dated '1950-1951').
L. Andrade, Leonora Carrington, historia en dos tiempos, Mexico City, 2002, n.p. (illustrated; dated '1950-1951').
S.L. Aberth, Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art, London, 2020, no. 57, p. 84 (illustrated; dated '1950-1951').
Paris, Galerie Pierre [Pierre Loeb], Leonora Carrington, 1952, no. 17.
Leeds, Art Company, Leonora Carrington, Early Works, June - July 1990, no. 12, n.p. (dated '1950-1951').
London, Serpentine Gallery, Leonora Carrington: Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures, 1940-1990, December 1991 - January 1992, no. 21, p. 109 (illustrated p. 68; dated '1950-1951').
Tokyo, Tokyo Station Gallery, Leonora Carrington, October - November 1997, no. 19, p. 60 (illustrated p. 61; dated '1950-1951'); this exhibition later traveled to Osaka, Daimaru Museum, February 1998; Takayama, Hida Takayama Museum of Art, February - March 1998; and Mie, Mie Prefectural Art Museum, April - May 1998.
Miami, Miami Art Museum, Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self-Representation, September - November 1998, no. 14 (dated '1950-1951').
Miami, Miami Art Museum, Selections from the Permanent Collection and New Acquisitions, November 1999 - April 2000.
Miami, Miami Art Museum, Miami Currents: Linking Collection and Community, October 2002 - March 2003.
Special notice
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
We are grateful to Dr Salomón Grimberg for his assistance cataloguing this work.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Senior Specialist, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Executed in 1952, at the height of Leonora Carrington’s artistic maturity, Ferret Race (Stoat Race), offers a portal into the intimate and hermetic universe of her haunting imagination. An ingenious fabulist with a hunger for autonomy and authority as an artist, Carrington plumbed the mysteries of her reality to create coded narratives documenting her quest for the self.

Painted a decade after her move to Mexico and her escape from a sanitorium in Santander, the work bears marks of her tumultuous life. Like most of her literary and visual productions, Ferret Race (Stoat Race) stands as a fertile terrain for her archaeological research within the Jungian self. Populated by strange female forms, white ferrets and dark mystical creatures, the work presents a circular labyrinth which represents the map of the artist’s mind. The dark figures holding sceptres appear to be cast as guardians of the maze, posted at various doors, whilst the white female silhouettes walk alongside the ferrets, guiding them to the exit. The creatures are then welcomed by potent mystical goddesses represented as human-animal hybrids.

The eerie masklike triangular face visible at the bottom of the work – a cross between a cat, plant forms, and butterfly wings – is a familiar hybrid from Carrington’s bestiary, as is the serpent headed woman visible at the left of the composition. ‘In everybody,’ Carrington once declared, ‘there is an inner bestiary’ (quoted in S. L. Aberth, Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art, London, 2004, p. 32). Carrington felt a special kinship with animals, and their presence here, in a Bosch-like landscape populated with ferrets, suggests the harmonious constellation of organic life. However, her hybridizing of the female form was initially a reaction to derogatory representations of the female nude body by male artists, writers, and poets of the Surrealist movement.

Used as a tool for identity creation to counter the 'othering' of women prevalent in Surrealist art, the female hybrid form was a common motif deployed by women Surrealists, acting as a conduit through which to view, understand, and represent their own bodies. She appeared in Surrealist textual and visual culture as a political statement advocating for women’s identity and agency. Carrington’s hybrids exemplify this autonomous agent freed of the ubiquity of sexist Surrealist motifs. Fragmented and hybridised, Carrington’s figures embrace the fluid and porous borders of their skin, both literally and metaphorically, as sites for exploring the construction of the feminine self. They successfully enabled the artist to reunite a female embodiment with her perspectives on the female self by transgressing twentieth-century boundaries of identity. Doing so, Carrington gained authority in representing the female form with authenticity.

A means to explore her own mind, the motif of the maze is crucial to Carrington’s iconography. Appearing for the first time after her experience at the sanitorium in 1940, it came to symbolise her efforts to escape the plight of her mental illness as well as the gruesome side effects of the treatment she received. Her vivid imagination gave new physical form to the walls of the institution and to the doctors who treated her. The maze signified the difficulty of the escape and her effort to do so is recorded in a Surrealist sketched map drawn in 1941 which is composed of esoteric elements that act as a coded language of symbols. The present work includes further elements which reference the artist’s stay in the asylum. For instance, the trees appearing in the background evoke the Spanish landscapes where the institution was located.

Through her representation of magically charged hybrid beings advancing towards the end of the maze, Ferret race (Stoat Race), illustrates her channelling of the harrowing experience of her institutionalisation into an image which signals female strength. Placing symbols of rich and ancient cultures at the end of the maze also reveals the fresh sources of influence she gained after moving to Mexico City in 1942. If one were to push the analogy further, the end of her maze, or her inner turmoil, could be her new home in Mexico, where letters and photographs documented her years of thriving. While there, Carrington challenged her Catholic upbringing using symbols of alternative beliefs from rich ancient cultures. Her investment in Ancient Egypt is particularly noticeable in her works from the period. Whether through the simulacra Anubis placed at the centre of the composition or the likeness of Horus at the lower left edge of the canvas, Ferret Race (Stoat Race) references her mental ailment and subsequent treatment. Knowledge and self-actualisation, embodied in the powerful hybrids at the door of the maze, welcome the artist at the end of her turbulent journey into the meanders of self.

Carrington's curiosity about mythologies was ignited by late nineteenth-century archaeological discoveries, which indicated that prehistoric human social systems were matriarchal. Her interests in occultism and Celtic and Egyptian mythology were then integrated into her art to create a new form of the Surrealist “social myth,” one that would push against society’s normative culture as well as the negative gender dynamics of the general Surrealist movement. This myth would present the Woman as a powerful Goddess involved in magic rituals within a circle of women. Her construction of this myth set the stage for a feminist sub-culture of women Surrealists in Mexico. Indeed, Carrington and Remedios Varo would together define a female-centric movement within Surrealism, autonomous and fully vested in feminine sensibility and intuition.

More from 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale

View All
View All