Lot 67
  • 67

René Magritte

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
842,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • René Magritte
  • Le Principe d'incertitude
  • Signed Magritte (lower right); titled and dated 1944 on the reverse
  • Oil on canvas


Lou Cosyn, Brussels (acquired from the artist)

Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1959)

Acquired from the above by descent


Brussels, Galerie Dietrich, Magritte, 1946, no. 17

Verviers, Société Royale des Beaux-Arts, René Magritte, 1947, no. 18

Charleroi, Salle de la Bourse, XXXme salon, Cercle Royal Artistique et Littéraire de Charleroi, 1956, no. 80

Brussels, Musée d'Ixelles, Magritte, 1959, no. 61

Southampton, Long Island, The Parrish Art Museum, René Magritte, Poetic Images, 1979, no. 17, illustrated in the catalogue

Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Magritte, 1996, no. 44, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordhein-Westfalen, René Magritte, Die Kunst der Konversation, 1996-97, no. 22, illustrated in color in the catalogue


David Sylvester & Sarah Whitfield, René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, London, 1993, no. 557, illustrated p. 334 

Catalogue Note

Before he painted this enigmatic painting in April 1944, Magritte described in a letter to his friend Marcel Mariën the image of a woman casting a shadow of a bird in flight.  This, he said, would be the subject of his next painting:  "An object (a human figure or something else) is presented against a background on which its shadow falls, with the amendment that he shadow is that of some quite different object.  Example:  a naked woman projecting another in the form of a bird onto a curtain." (quoted in D. Sylvester, op. cit., p. 334).

The titles for Magritte's paintings often had little to do with the subjects at hand and were usually derived from the creative suggestions of his friends.  For this work, he appealed to Mariën for ideas, one of which was the title Free Will.  After some consideration, Magritte wrote Mariën the following reply, which reveals the artist's own preferences: "As for Free Will, it is very good, but not absolutely convincing, (in the body of the relevant sentence, you unconsciously hit upon The Uncertainty Principle, and which is just as good). I would say that Free Will is rather abstract, I prefer The Uncertainty Principle, which has the merit of being totally abstract and yet, in spite of that, on the whole presents us with a disturbing aspect of actuality. Not that I like actuality, on the contrary, but it conveys a higher degree of temperature" (ibid.).