Lot 12
  • 12

Leonora Carrington (B. 1917)

300,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Leonora Carrington
  • El baño
  • signed and dated 1957 lower left
  • 25 7/8 by 44 3/8 in.
  • (65.7 by 112.6 cm)
oil on canvas


Galería de Antonio Souza, Mexico
Galería Proteo, Mexico
Carmen Porraz, Mexico
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Latin American Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture and Prints, November 23, 1992, lot 60, illustrated in color


Mexico, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo de Arte Moderno, Exposición Retrospectiva de Pinturas y Tapices de Leonora Carrington, July 22-August 15, 1960, no. 33

Catalogue Note

Known for her great beauty, Leonora Carrington nonetheless shied away from self-representation.  With the great exception of Self-Portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse) executed at the very beginning of her career in 1937, if she appears at all in her work it is either cloaked or under disguise.  I believe that El baño is one of those rare canvases where the artist appears, in cognito.  Carrington often complained to her friend, the surrealist painter Remedios Varo, that she wished she had a "wife" to take care of the domestic chores associated with child rearing.  The year 1957 was a busy one for the artist who, in addition to her usual prodigious output of work, was in the process of producing her play Pénélope in Mexico City, for which she also designed and made the stage sets and costumes.  Although Carrington adored her sons Gabriel and Pablo, then aged 11 and 9, it must have been difficult juggling such a great variety of tasks.  In a rare glance into the psyche of the artist, El baño provides us with much amusing insight into Carrington's creative process and her unparalleled ability to transform the mundane into the marvelous.


Two boyish heads peer out from the surface of the water in a small pool, like that found in a neighbor's backyard.   With the relentless stare of children everywhere who demand the attention of their parents and to be rescued from boredom and entertained, her sons look to their mother in the same way that audiences will be looking at the theatrical unfolding of Pénélope.  Carrington rises to the challenge, like all desperate mothers, and with the magic of a Celtic bard invokes the realm of faerie.  The family dogs, in all probability two of the many ungainly mongrels she adopted out of her passionate concern for animal welfare, now resemble the mythical creatures found guarding the thrones of exotic rulers.  To the far right is a tall marble herm festooned with a beribboned laurel wreath as if demarcating sacred space, while ancient looking amphorae on a nearby shelf hint at ritual offerings. In the foreground a ghostly white woman in a tight black sheath, looking remarkably like the artist replete with a glorious thick mane of hair, balances a pinkish egg on her nose that seems to be miraculously suspended from the sky on a gossamer string.  Her kneeling pose is that of a priestess beside a reflecting pool upon whose surface she is about to read the future, but only after the creepy spectral hands clinging to the stairs either disappear into the water or pull out whatever is lurking in the deep. 


Overhead a large pink-winged dragonfly is suspended, as if summoned by the oracle. Eggs lie here and there, hinting of tempera paint and art production, motherhood, and fecundity in general.  In front of the boys are black and white spheres and figures that presumably function as toys.  Like the articulated clay figures unearthed in pre-Columbian tombs, or the carved wooden dolls made by her friend José Horna, these playthings are arranged with all of the precision and solemnity of objects on an altar.


Carrington has turned the poolside into a proscenium, with seated figures in a draped bleacher as if about to view a medieval jousting tournament.  In the back a woman sleeps in a curtained canopy bed dreaming while to her right the sun rises over a row of sunflowers.  Nearby a staff sprouts from the ground surmounted by an artichoke, like the thyrsus carried by frenzied maenads during the mysteries of Dionysus.  The scene actually does resemble the stage set for Pénélope and reveals perhaps what the artist was really thinking as she went about her daily routine of humdrum duties and chores.


Susan Aberth