Sotheby’s London to Offer Works by Surrealist Masters Dalí and Magritte

Rare works from surrealist masters like René Magritte and Salvador Dalí will be auctioned at Sotheby's Surrealist Art evening sale on 28 February. The Value has invited James Mackie, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art, to talk about some highlights, including Dalí's Gradiva, a newly-discovered work by the artist that comes to the market for the first time, and Magritte's Ciel-bouteile and Le jockey perdu.

James Mackie, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art, Sotheby's  

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), Gradiva

Lot no.: 33
Created in: 1931
Signed: Salvador Dalí (upper right)
Size: 20.6 x 15.5 cm

  • Maria Adela 'Tota' Atucha, Condesa de Cuevas de Vera, Buenos Aires (acquired from the artist)
  • Thence by descent to the present owners

Estimate: £1,200,000 - 1,800,000

James: This is one of the most important paintings by Dalí to come to the market for some years. It was created in 1931, peak of his engagement with the surrealist movement. The subject Gradiva, a woman who has become the ultimate muse for all surrealists, is also the name that Dalí gave to his wife Gala, who had been formerly married to Paul Éluard, the founder of surrealist movement.


Q: What does Gradiva mean to surrealism?

Salvador Dalí

James: Gradiva is one of the critical and most important subjects for the surrealist movement, particularly resonant for Dalí. Gradiva is taken by the surrealists as an emblem from a novella written by Wilhelm Jensen in the early 20th century. Sigmund Freud then went on to make an analysis of it.

Sigmund Freud

James: And Freud's interest in Gradiva as a subject in the novella sparked the interest of the surrealist movement. Freud identified her significance and she has become a key emblem.

Q: What's the story Gradiva about?

James: Gradiva is a story of how an archaeologist falls in love with a Roman statue of a woman walking. The archaeologist found this statue and named it Gradiva. He fell in love with this anonymous object and became obsessed by it. In a way that it came to live.

René Magritte (1898-1967), Ciel-bouteile

Lot no.: 42
Created in: 1940
Height: 30 cm

  • Georgette Magritte (the artist’s widow; by descent from the artist and until her death in 1986)
  • Sale: Sotheby’s, London, The Remaining Contents of the Studio of René Magritte, 2nd July 1987, lot 863
  • Château Giscours, Bordeaux (purchased at the above sale)
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £600,000 - 800,000

James: He created this in 1940. Over the rest of his career, he made about 25 of these painted bottles. It is one of the earliest works. That's why it is so important.

Q: What's so special about this bottle?

James: It remains in Magritte's collection. He kept this. In many photographs, it is located in his drawing room in his house. Then it remained in his widow's collection. When she died, it was then sold at the Magritte Estate sale in Sotheby's London in 1987. Since then, it has one other owner.

René Magritte at his home in Brussels

James: It’s a really rare and significant piece by Magritte to bring to the market. It is an object that is opposed to its two-dimensional works on paper or oil painting.

Q: Of all 20 some bottles he painted, are they all painted with the subject of cloud and sky?

James: There are a variety of subjects. So you’ll see the nude women and the fire. There is another example of a bottle painted with cloud, which is a bit later in date. That now sits in the Menil collection in the United States.

René Magritte (1898-1967), Le jockey perdu

Lot no.: 41
Created in: 1947-1948
Size: 37 x 46 cm

  • Alexander Iolas, Paris
  • William N. Copley, Beverly Hills (acquired from the above in April 1948)
  • Stanley N. Barbee, Beverly Hills (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 11th November 1959, lot 51)
  • William N. Copley, Beverly Hills
  • Thence by descent to the present owner

Estimate: £1,000,000 - 1,500,000

James: We have another phenomenal work by Magritte. This is a gouache on paper. We are more used to seeing this kind of work at auction. This particular piece is an exceptional example of his works on paper. It’s got incredible scale, great freshness, the colour and the brightness.

James: You are in this unique and extraordinary world that Magritte created in 1947 to 48. It’s got strange, unsettling contrast between trees and these chess pieces, which create an avenue. Magritte was playing with what we know to be real and just opposing that with the bizarre or unusual to make us think differently about what it is that we are looking at. That’s the essence of Magritte’s surrealism.

Auction details

Auction house: Sotheby's London
Sale: Surrealist Art Evening Sale
Exhibition times
2018/2/22 - 23, 26|9am - 5pm
2018/2/24|12nn - 5pm
2018/2/25|1pm - 5pm
2018/2/27|9am - 7pm
2018/2/28|9am - 3pm
Auction time: 2018/2/28|7pm