René Magritte (1898-1967)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE ITALIAN COLLECTION
René Magritte (1898-1967)


René Magritte (1898-1967)
signed ‘Magritte’ (lower left); signed, dated and titled ‘“L’EMBELLIE” Magritte 1962’ (on the reverse)
gouache on paper
12 7/8 x 10 1/4 in. (32.6 x 25.9 cm.)
Executed in 1962
Galleria Schwarz, Milan.
Nedda & Gigina Necchi Campiglio, Milan, by whom acquired on 22 December 1962.
Acquired by the present owner circa 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.

Lot Essay

This work is sold with a photo-certificate from the Comité Magritte.

L’embellie is one of René Magritte’s most compelling motifs. Executed in 1962, this gouache unites a range of enigmatic paradoxes, bringing together in beautifully poetic form the opposing states of night and day, collapsing the distinction between interior and exterior realms, and above all confusing the definition of reality and illusion. The motif of the open door amidst a distorted landscape first emerged in Magritte’s art in the late 1930s, in both an oil and a gouache (Sylvester 470 and 1152). For the artist, this combination solved one of his pictorial ‘problems’, as the artist explained in his famed lecture delivered in November 1938, ‘The problem of the door called for an opening one could pass through. In la réponse imprévue (The Unexpected Answer), I showed a closed door in a room; in the door an irregular-shaped opening revealed the night’ (Magritte, ‘La ligne de vie’, in G. Ollinger-Zinque & F. Leen, eds., exh. cat., Magritte Centenary Exhibition, Brussels, 1998, p. 47).

As with so many of his signature motifs, Magritte has here taken an object so simple and ubiquitous we hardly note its presence in day to day life and rendered it extraordinary. As Marcel Duchamp had done in his famous readymade of 1927, Door, in L’embellie, Magritte questions our accepted perception of a door as a division between interior and exterior, light and dark, open and closed. The open door leads the viewer’s eyes out of the nightscape that surrounds it and into a sunlit seascape. Yet this throws up myriad perplexing puzzles: if the door separates the room from the landscape why then is the landscape visible right and left of the door? Conversely, if the door is planted into the sand of a beach and there is no room, why then does the day light come only through the door leaving a shadow elsewhere? A pictorial trompe l’oeil riddle, ultimately Magritte leads us into a new realm where mystery inhabits the everyday, forcing us to question our perception of the world and indeed its presentation in artistic form. ‘There is a familiar feeling of mystery experienced in relation to things that are customarily labelled “mysterious,”’ Magritte explained in 1958, shortly before he executed L’embellie, ‘but the supreme feeling is the “unfamiliar” feeling of mystery, experienced in relation to things that it is customary to “consider natural”… We must consider the idea that a “marvellous” world manifests itself in the “usual” world… Instead of being astonished by the superfluous existence of another world, it is our one world, where coincidences surprise us, that we must not lose sight of’ (Magritte, quoted in K. Rooney & E. Plattner, eds., René Magritte, Selected Writings, trans. J. Levy, Surrey, 2016, p. 281).

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