René Magritte (1898-1967)
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René Magritte (1898-1967)

La veillée

René Magritte (1898-1967)
La veillée
signed 'Magritte' (lower left)
gouache, watercolour, Conté crayon and collage on paper
13½ x 16 5/8 in. (34.3 x 42.2 cm.)
Executed in 1961
Private collection, Brussels, by whom acquired from the artist shortly after execution.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 2006.
D. Sylvester, René Magritte, catalogue raisonné: Gouaches, Temperas, Watercolours and Papiers Collés 1918-1967, vol. IV, Antwerp, 1994, no. 1635 (illustrated p. 311).
Ostend, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Kunstbezit in ieder bereik, June - July 1961.
Charleroi, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 41e salon [du] Cercle Royal Artistique et Littéraire de Charleroi, including an 'Hommage à René Magritte', February 1968, no. 134.
Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Rétrospective Magritte (1898-1967) dans les collections privées, January - March 1988 (illustrated p. 209).
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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni


Executed in 1961, La veillée is a lyrical collage dating from the period when René Magritte reprised the technique that he had so successfully used in the 1920s.

In this picture, Magritte has depicted a scene that is unusual, though not impossible, a still life comprising a candle and some eggs in a nest, against a curtained nocturnal backdrop. The mysterious juxtaposition of these elements fills La veillée with the poetic quality that Magritte so successfully evoked in his works, which are intended to reveal the magical possibilities of life and existence. Whether they feature overt transformations and reimaginations or rely instead on the power of implication as is the case in La veillée, Magritte's pictures are invitations to the viewer to cease to take for granted the visible world and instead to see the miracles that surround us every day, to which we grow too accustomed, too blinkered. In this sense, La veillée is all the more successful: Magritte has rendered a scene that, while possible, nonetheless conjures that magical spirit.

Magritte has heightened both the Surreal aspect and the lyricism of La veillée by showing the candle and its holder through the use of a carefully-cut, collaged musical score, invoking once more the earlier papiers collés he had created up until 1927. The presence of sheet music in Magritte's collages may have been a tribute to his brother, Paul, who was a poet and a musician and with whom René had founded an advertising agency during the early part of his career. In La veillée, Magritte has added some elements of colour to this collage area, granting it a continuity with the rest of the composition. This silhouette literally adds a musicality to the still life; at the same time, it appears as though some of the curtain of reality has been stripped away to reveal the tune, the lilting and rhythmical coding, that underpins existence itself.