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Magritte's ‘Le Banquet’ goes to auction in New York for estimated €14 million

René Magritte Le Banquet - painting auction Sotheby's New York
11:15 05/05/2024

The painting Le Banquet by Belgian surrealist René Magritte goes on sale in New York on 16 May, Sotheby’s auction house has announced.

One of a series of four oil paintings, the 1955 work is estimated at between $15 and $20 million (€14 to €18.5m).

Depicting a bright red sun piercing through a forested scene, the 75.5cm x 121cm painting has been part of a major private American collection since November 2017, says the auction house.

Two versions of Magritte's The Happy Hand will also be on sale in the evening auction of Modern artworks, alongside paintings by Claude Monet, Mark Rothko and Pablo Picasso, among others.

Executed circa 1955-57, Le Banquet is an exquisite example of Magritte’s singular ability to give shape to the space between vision and our visual experience of the world, says Sotheby’s.

The artist’s aim was to challenge the perceptions of reality of the observer. With Magritte exercising his characteristically restrained realism, this painting stands as a masterpiece of surrealism

Of the four oils Magritte (1898-1967) completed with this striking red sun and sky, “none are rendered with so disarming a visual confrontation as is enacted in the present iteration,” continues the auction house.

The final and most famous painting of the series, completed in 1958, features a stone balustrade in the foreground. The absence of the structure in his earlier work creates a panoramic and peaceful landscape. Yet the contrast between the quiet, dusky scene and the bright vermilion sun contains a stronger pictorial impact, explains Sotheby’s.

While Magritte’s Banquet series was a departure from the prevailing surrealist preoccupation with the depiction of disparate objects, it forms part pf a rich seam of new pictorial and conceptual possibility.

“The paintings feature two objects or motifs that are seemingly congruent - the dark silhouette of a tree, and the setting sun - and shows their incongruity within our perception by inverting our normative association of the pairing,” reveals the auctioneer.

Photo: courtesy Sotheby’s New York

Written by Sarah Crew