The first owners of this work, Louis Scutenaire and Irène Hamoir, were both Belgian writers and surrealist poets who married in 1930. They received the present lot and Sans titre (Deux maisons) (Sylvester, no. 1219a) as gifts from the artist, and kept them in their collection for close to 50 years. According to the second owner André Garitte’s conversation with Irène, the two works were executed to serve as front and back covers of a box for Scutenaire’s copy of Paul Eluard’s Exemples.
Regarding this theory, David Sylvester has written: “It is not clear whether this was the first edition of Les Nécessités de la vie et les conséquences de rêves précédés par Exemples published in Paris in 1921, or the reprint with illustrations by Magritte published by Editions Lumière, Brussels, in 1946 (45.1.2)… The oval shape of Magritte’s twelve pen-and-ink drawings for the 1946 edition is echoed in these two designs [cat. 1219a and the present lot, cat. 1219b], but whether they were painted in 1946 or at a later date is uncertain” (op. cit., p. 65).