A possible homage to Vermeer by the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte is among the headline lots in Sotheby’s second 23-lot “Surrealism and its Legacy” sale scheduled to take place in Paris on 15 March.
Magritte’s La Leçon de Musique (The Music Lesson), around 1965, est €2.3m-€3.5m, takes its title from a painting by Vermeer created around 1665. It comes from a Belgian private collection and was originally acquired directly from the artist; the work was bought by the current owner at Sotheby's London in 2002.
“The painting combines several recurrent preoccupations of Magritte‘s art, such as the bell, the depiction of isolated body parts, objects suspended in the sky and the juxtaposition of human flesh with everyday objects,” Sotheby’s says in a statement.
Magritte is thought to have been inspired by Vermeer’s techniques, with some art historians drawing parallels between the illusionistic trompe l’oeil effect created by both men in, for instance, their depiction of curtains (Vermeer’s The Art of Painting, 1666, shows the artist in his studio, painting a model flanked by a fabric hanging which appears almost three dimensional).
La Leçon de Musique is the only known oil version of the image; a study of the work fetched €119,700 (est €60,000-€80,000) at the Modernitiés auction at Sotheby's Paris last year. The Belgian artist surged in market value early last year when his L’empire des lumières canvas sold for £59.4m, setting an auction record.
Sotheby’s is hoping that Surrealism is as bankable as last year’s 23-lot sale in Paris dedicated to the early 20th-century movement, which made €33m in total with 96% sold by lot. The total estimate for this year’s sale is €20m to €30m.
Other big-ticket items due to go on the block next week include Francis Picabia’s Nova (1916) which has an estimate of €2.5m to €3.5m. The work, which the auction house says celebrates the superiority of women and heralds mass industrialisation, was once owned by the godfather of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp. The auction record was set for Picabia last year when Pavonia (1929) sold for €9.9m (with fees) at Sotheby's Paris.
Other artists represented in the forthcoming Sotheby’s sale include Andy Warhol, Yves Tanguy and Salvador Dalí. “The material is fresh, with 70% of the lots making their international auction debuts, and property coming from private collections in the US, UK, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Germany and of course France,” says a Sotheby’s spokesperson.