Lot 24
  • 24

Paul Delvaux

700,000 - 900,000 GBP
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  • Paul Delvaux
  • signed P. Delvaux, inscribed St. Idesbald and dated 9-64 (lower right)

  • oil on board
  • 122 by 198cm.
  • 48 by 72in.


George Girard (acquired from the artist)
Galerie Krugier & Cie., Geneva
Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York
Ishizula Institute (sold: Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 2nd May 1974, lot 283)
Private Collection (purchased at the above sale)
Stooshnoff Fine Art, London
Hans Redmann, Berlin (sold: Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 20th May 1982, lot 258)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Mons, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Hainaut Cinq, Hommage à Paul Delvaux, 1965, no. 19
Ostende, Casion-Kursaal, L'Art d'Aujourd'hui en Belgique, 1965, no. 23
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, De Generatie van 1900, Surrealisten, Animisten, 1966, no. 64
Geneva, Galerie Krugier, Paul Delvaux, 1966, no. 23, illustrated in the catalogue


Paul-Aloïse de Bock, Paul Delvaux: Der Mensch, der Maler, Hamburg, 1965, no. 42, illustrated p. 63 (with incorrect measurements)
Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1966, no. 1136, illustrated p. 22
Die Welt, Essen, 28th October 1966
Georges Peillex, 'Chronique genevoise: Paul Delvaux Galerie Krugier du 15 septembre au 31 octobre', in Werk-Chronik, no. 11, November 1966, mentioned p. 274
José Vovelle, Surréalisme en Belgique, Brussels, 1972, illustrated p. 212; detail illustrated pp. 178 & 190
Michel Butor, Jean Clair & Suzanne Houbart-Wilkin, Delvaux: Catalogue de l'œuvre peint, Brussels, 1975, no. 288, illustrated p. 263; illustrated in colour p. 342


The board is stable. There are some minor surface imperfections to the board such as irregular texture, and the artist's painted-over nail-heads are visible on close inspection. These are inherent to the artist's creative process. There are some minor paint losses to all four extreme framing edges. Apart from some minor spots of retouching to the lower composition, mainly to the boardwalk, and some further small lines of retouching on the extreme left edge, visible under ultra-violet light, this work is in good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Paul Delvaux's haunting evocation of a farewell ranks among his most sophisticated compositions. A wealth of imagery and painterly prowess charge the viewer's imagination. The moonlit beauty standing at a window lifting her hand in a gesture of a belated or lingering goodbye captures the essential atmosphere of the painting. The whole image is filled with ambiguity so as to defy a clear narrative; the figures are entirely themselves, potentially connected or at a complete remove from each other. Delvaux himself emphasised that 'I do not feel the need to give a temporal explanation of what I do; neither do I feel the need to account for my human subjects who exist only for the purpose of the painting. These figures recount no history: they are. Further they express nothing in themselves' (quoted in Paul Delvaux 1897-1994 (exhibition catalogue), Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, 1997, p. 22).

In Les Adieux, Delvaux draws upon the international language of Surrealism to embellish the scene. The drawn curtain on the boardwalk is closely related to the similar motif used by his countryman, René Magritte, in paintings such as La Joconde (fig. 1). The curtain, a familiar trope in Surrealist art, allowed the painter to emphasise the revelation of the painted fiction. The very style in which Delvaux painted shows his admiration for the great painters of the Renaissance, with the enigmatic Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sister's of 1594 (fig. 2) providing a particularly strong influence - the use of startling nudity and heightened gestures as well as the curtains serving as a 'repoussoir'.  The essence of mystery distilled in Delvaux's work is so intense precisely because of his use of the contemporary and the past, in his style of painting and portrayal of his subjects.

The flouting of logic that Delvaux perpetrates is evident in Les Adieux. The painter abandons the rational progression of time, allowing for irrational coexistences. Each element belongs perhaps at once in reality and again in the memory of the two protagonists. The characters weave their way through fictional environments and inhabit ineffable spaces; the elegiac presentation of such emotional uncertainty is in no way diminished by the pretence of reality. Les Adieux exemplifies the qualities that led Delvaux to be not only recognised amongst his compatriot painters but at the forefront of the international movement in Surrealist art.

Fig. 1 – Rene Magritte, La Joconde, 1960, oil on canvas, Sold: Sotheby's, London, 8th February 2011

Fig. 2 - School of Fontainebleau, Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sisters, circa 1594, oil on panel, Musée du Louvre, Paris