Lot 337
  • 337

René Magritte

100,000 - 150,000 USD
200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • René Magritte
  • Le Météore (étude)
  • Signed Magritte (upper right)
  • Ballpoint pen on paper


Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1964, Le Météore (étude) combines several of Magritte’s best-known iconographical elements in a striking example of his anthropomorphism. Magritte first painted a version of this image in 1944, but it was a concept that he continued to return to and develop over the following decades. Whilst earlier examples often incorporate the feathery brushwork that is associated with the artist’s "Impressionist" period, the present work reflects the artist’s mature style. Magritte plays on ideas of portraiture, presenting a horse’s head with peculiarly human features. In the present work the anthropomorphic element is further emphasized by the crumbling stone wall and expanse of cloudy sky in the background. This has the dual effect of reinforcing the portrait-like nature of the composition and lending the scene a theatrical air.

In the present work, likely executed as a study for a 1964 oil painting of the same title, Magritte combines the horse with a tower. This variation, first developed in his 1955 painting Le Coeur du monde, confirms the allusion to chess pieces that is already implied in the stylized, cut-off representation of the horse’s head. The symbolic associations of chess pieces and the complexities and infinite possibilities of the game appealed to many of the Surrealists—Man Ray, Duchamp and Ernst were keen players as was Magritte—and here it serves to increase the range of meanings that could be associated with the horse. The horse had always been significant within Magritte’s oeuvre. His 1926 painting Le Jockey perdu, was acknowledged by the artist to be among his most important early works, and from the first Magritte was associated with the figure of the lost jockey. In this sense the horse is associated with ideas of escape, but also with the nightmarish suggestion of a point of no return. The horse continued to be a "problem" that Magritte sought to reconcile in his work, addressing it in the present work through a direct assessment of the singular relationship between horse and man. David Sylvester characterizes this treatment of the horse motif specifically within the context of Magritte’s problem-solution theory, writing: “It seems a classic case of a Magritte ‘problem’, with the ‘problem’ as hair and the solution the affinity between human tresses and an animal’s mane. Such interchangeability of human with animal is part of the strong fairy-tale element in works of this year” (David Sylvester, op. cit., p. 336).