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Ren Magritte (1898-1967)
Magritte, R.
L'aube Cayenne
signed 'Magritte' (lower left); titled '"L'aube Cayenne"' (on the reverse)
gouache on paper
9 x 7.3/8 in. (24.7 x 18.8 cm.)
Painted in 1957
Barnet and Eleanor Cramer Hodes, Chicago (acquired from the artist, 1957).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
Letter from Barnet Hodes to Magritte, 29 January 1957.
Letters from Magritte to Barnet Hodes, 12 February and 10 March 1957.
Letter from Magritte to Avis Palmer, 6 May 1957.
D. Sylvester, S. Whitfield and M. Raeburn, Ren Magritte, Catalogue Raisonn, London, 1992-1994, vol. I, p. 195; vol. III, pp. 67-68; vol. IV, p. 197, no. 1427 (illustrated).
Chicago, The Art Institute, Magritte, March-May 1993, no. 150.

Lot Essay

L'aube Cayenne is one of three gouaches Hodes commissioned from Magritte in January 1957. It is a closely related to a similary titled oil painting of 1926 (Sylvester, no. 118), which was shown in Magritte's first exhibition of Surrealist works at the Galerie Le Centaure, Brussels, in 1927.

The title refers to death by execution at dawn; the port of Cayenne in French Guiana was the site of a notorious penal colony. It in unclear what prompted Magritte to initially paint this subject, or from where he drew his imagery; however, Sylvester suggests that the hands, the metal tube and the spider may derive from a similarly incongruous juxtaposition made by Max Ernst for an illustration to Paul Eluard's Rptitions of 1922 (op. cit., vol. I, p. 194, illustrated). Certainly, the watery-green palette lends an eerie aspect to the landscape, and the praying hands, lit candle, barren landscape and aureole-shaped bare branches (perhaps derived from German mystical imagery of the Renaissance) all contribute to a solemn, even devotional mood in the work.

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