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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN

The Moonstone Effect (formerly Opale, Opale, Opale)

The Moonstone Effect (formerly Opale, Opale, Opale)
signed 'Dorothea Tanning' (lower right)
oil on canvas
44 5/8 x 57 1/2 in. (113.4 x 146 cm.)
Painted in 1959 and 2005
William and Noma Copley, Paris & New York, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Noma Copley, New York.
Dorothea Tanning, New York, by whom acquired from the above circa 2005.
The artist's estate, New York.
The Destina Foundation, New York, by bequest.
Private collection, Hong Kong, by whom acquired from the above in 2019 via the intermediation of Alison Jacques Gallery.
Paris, Galerie Edouard Loeb, Societé d'Art Saint-Germain des Prés and Paris, Galerie Mouradian Vallotton, Dorothea Tanning, May - June 1959, n.p. (titled 'Opale, Opale, Opale').
Knokke-Le Zoute, Casino Communal, XXe Festival belge d'été: Dorothea Tanning, June - August 1967, no. 44. n.p. (titled 'Opale, Opale, Opale'; dated '1959').
New York, Kent Gallery, Dorothea Tanning, Insomnias, 1956-1963, October - December 2005, no. 6, n.p. (dated '1959').
Special notice
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 The Dorothea Tanning Foundation for their assistance in cataloguing this work.

Brought to you by

Ottavia Marchitelli
Ottavia Marchitelli Senior Specialist, Head of The Art of The Surreal Sale

Lot Essay

Filled with an enigmatic play of form and internal dynamism, The Moonstone Effect is a vivid expression of Dorothea Tanning’s atmospheric painterly language. Having initially been drawn to Surrealism following a visit to the ground-breaking 1936 exhibition, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in the mid-1950s Tanning began to move increasingly towards a more abstracted style of painting, eschewing the unsettling realism of her earlier work and instead favouring loose, delicate passages of colour and light to bring her imaginary, dream-like worlds into being. ‘Around 1955, my canvases literally splintered,’ she explained. ‘Their colours came out of the closet, you might say, to open the rectangles to a different light. They were prismatic, surfaces where I veiled, suggested and floated my persistent icons and preoccupations, in another of the thousand ways of saying the same things’ (D. Tanning, Between Lives: An Artist and Her World, New York, 2001, p. 178). Nevertheless, the figure remained a central protagonist within these scenes, glimpsed amidst the hazy layers of colour, often metamorphosing into hybrid creatures or fantastical characters.
Discussing this shift within her work, Tanning described the appeal of such amorphous imagery, its ability to captivate the eye and reveal different things each time a viewer encountered it: ‘I wanted to make a picture that you didn’t see all at once. All of my pictures of this period I felt you should discover slowly and that they would almost be kaleidoscopes that would shimmer and that you would discover something new every time you looked at it’ (D. Tanning, quoted in Dorothea Tanning: Exhibition Guide, Tate Modern, London, 2019,, accessed 18 December 2022). In The Moonstone Effect, a pair of amorphous beings slowly come into view, their contours invoking a subtle sense of eroticism. Shortly after its completion, the present work was purchased by William and Noma Copley, who were close friends of Tanning and her husband Max Ernst, and it remained in their collection for over forty years. The painting was later re-purchased by the artist around 2005 and reintegrated into her personal collection, at which point Tanning took it upon herself to alter the composition and rename it The Moonstone Effect.

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