In March, Christie’s will sell three major works from the collection of French-Brazilian Surrealist patron Claude Hersaint. Masterworks by René Magritte, Joan Miró and Max Ernst will go on offer during the house’s “Art of the Surreal Evening Sale” in London on March 9. The group of three paintings is expected to a fetch a collective £21 million-£32 million ($28 million-$43 million).
Belgian surrealist René Magritte’s large-scale Le mois des vendanges completed in 1959 is estimated at £10–£15 million ($13.4 million-$20 million). If it reaches its high estimate, it will be among the artist’s top auction records, nearing his current highest price of $26.8 million paid for Le Principe du plaisir (1964) in November 2018 at Sotheby’s.
Alongside the Magritte, two works by Joan Miró and Max Ernst will be offered for the first time at auction. Miró’s Peinture from 1925 is expected to achieve £9 million-£14 million ($12 million-$18.7 million) and Ernst’s Cage, forêt et soleil noir from 1927 is estimated at £2 million-£3 million ($2.7 million-$4 million).
Completed in 1959, the large-scale Magritte canvas depicts an uncanny scene, where an opened window reveals a homogenous group of the artist’s famous bowler-hatted figure. The work’s seller is a descendant of Hersaint, who purchased the Magritte in 1963 at the Paris auction of dealer Jean Larcade for £6,000. It was last exhibited at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel during the exhibition “René Magritte: The Key to Dreams” in 2005.
“The Magritte, one of the four largest works by the artist still in private hands, is among the most significant paintings of his entire oeuvre and focuses on the unnerving presence of the eternally enigmatic character of the bowler hatted man,” said Olivier Camu, Christie’s deputy chairman of impressionist and modern art in a statement.
Most recently on the market, top examples by the artist have performed well in the evening sales. At Christie’s in October, Magritte’s Le nu couché, a reclining nude balancing household objects on her body sold for $6.8 million, making the high estimate. In the same week, his 1962 L’ovation sold by British mega-collector Pauline Karpidas made $14 million, landing within the estimate of $12-$18 million. The results are sustaining momentum from recent auction milestones; in November 2019, his Le seize septembre from 1957 surpassed its high estimate of $10 million, selling for a final price of $19.6 million during Christie’s impressionist and modern art evening sale.
Backed with the prominent Hersaint provenance and wide exhibition records, the Ernst and Miro are poised to impress also. “The Ernst explores the mysterious depths of a dark, imaginary forest, and is one of just five forest paintings the artist created on this huge scale in 1927, three of which are now in important museum collections around the world,” said Camu. The Miró, continued Camu, is an example the artist’s signature dream series completed in the mid-1920s, “inspired by the work of Alfred Jarry as well as the artist’s own hunger-induced hallucinations,” he said.
The Spring evening sale devoted to Surrealist masters is now a staple of the Christie’s impressionist and modern art department. Last year, the equivalent London sale staged in February brought in a total of £43.9 million ($58.8 million), headlined by Magritte’s A la rencontre du plaisir (1962), which sold for £18.9 million ($24.4 million). A year before that, the artist’s Le lieu common (1964) headlined the sale, going for £18.4 million ($24.6 million).