Lot 3
  • 3

René Magritte

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • René Magritte
  • signed Magritte and dated 1935 (lower right); titled on the reverse
  • gouache and watercolour on paper
  • 25 by 31.5cm.
  • 9 7/8 by 12 3/8 in.


E.L.T. Mesens, Brussels
Private Collection (acquired from the above)
London Gallery, London
Sale: Sotheby's, London, 12th November 1970, lot 73
Piccadilly Gallery, London (purchased at the above sale)
Acoris, The Surrealist Art Centre, London
Sale: William Doyle Galleries, New York, 16th May 1985
Sale: Sotheby's, London, 1st July 1998, lot 163
Waddington Galleries, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999


London, New Burlington Galleries, The International Surrealist Exhibition, 1936, no. 182
London, Acoris, The Surrealist Art Centre, Surrealist Masters, 1972, no. 32, illustrated in the catalogue


William Gaunt, The Surrealists, London, 1972, pl. 78, illustrated in colour p. 205
David Sylvester (ed.), Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte. Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1994, vol. IV, no. 1111, illustrated p. 14

Catalogue Note

In this painting-within-a-painting, Magritte reflects on the nature of light, and creates an enigmatic relationship between a candle and the object it illuminates. The painted torso, presented on the artist's easel and executed in a glowing yellow tonality, appears to be as much the source of light as a lit object. While the image of this gently bent female torso features prominently throughout Magritte's oeuvre, the present composition with the candle first appeared in the oil of the same title, from 1933 (D. Sylvester, op. cit., vol. II, no. 352), now in the Dallas Museum of Art. The mysterious relationship between the two objects is reflected in the title of the present work, which, according to Marcel Mariën, was, as was often the case, found by Paul Nougé, a Belgian poet and friend of Magritte's.


Talking about the oil version of La Lumière des coïncidences, Magritte said in a lecture in 1938: 'As regards light, I reflected that while it has the power to make objects visible, its existence is manifest only on condition that it is accepted by objects. But for matter, light would be invisible. This is made obvious, I think, in 'The light of coincidence', where an ordinary object, a female torso, is lit by a candle. In this case, it seems that the object illuminated itself gives life to light' (quoted in D. Sylvester, op. cit., vol. II, p. 185).


The present work was one of eight oils, four gouaches and two papiers collés by Magritte included in the first major international exhibition of Surrealist art, which was held at the New Burlington Galleries in London in June-July 1936. This seminal exhibition was organised by a British committee led by Roland Penrose, in collaboration with Breton, who wrote the preface to the catalogue and made the opening speech, as well as Eluard, Man Ray, Mesens and others. E.L.T. Mesens, the first owner of the present gouache, possibly together with Magritte himself, chose the works to be sent to London for the exhibition, and also played a key role in the installation of the show. The exhibition introduced international Surrealist art to the British public, and was extremely well attended as well as attracting critical acclaim. Throughout its three-week run, lectures by various artists and art critics were held in front of large audiences. Due to the large number of important works it included, as well as its innovative concept of mixing works by the Surrealists such as Dalí, Miró and Ernst alongside tribal art, this celebrated exhibition represented a milestone in the development of the international Surrealist movement.