Lot 48
  • 48

René Magritte

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 GBP
4,562,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • René Magritte
  • L'IDÉE
  • signed Magritte (upper left); titled on the reverse
  • oil on canvas


Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Paris
Private Collection, Portugal (probably acquired from the above)
Andrée Stassart, Paris (acquired from the above in 1973)
Private Collection, Paris (acquired from the above in 1974)
Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels (acquired by 1986)
Arnold Herstand, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the late 1980s


Paris, Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Magritte: les images en soi, 1967
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Magritte, 1973, no. 83, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Galerie Isy Brachot, Le Surréalisme en Belgique I, 1986, no. 22, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Arnold Herstand, René Magritte: Paintings, 1986
Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Rétrospective Magritte dans les collections privées, 1988, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Letter from Magritte to Iolas, 28th December 1966
Lectures pour tous, November 1967, Brussels, detail illustrated p. 49
Suzi Gablik, Magritte, London, 1970, no. 145, illustrated
Jacques Vovelle, Le Surréalisme en Belgique, Brussels, 1972, no. 165, illustrated p. 137
Harry Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, New York, 1977, no. 287, illustrated in colour p. 148
Pere Gimferrer, Magritte, Barcelona, 1986, no. 145, illustrated in colour on the cover; illustrated in colour
David Sylvester (ed.), Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1993, vol. III, no. 1053, illustrated p. 438 

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1966, L’Idée is a witty and captivating example of one of the central themes of Magritte’s art, that of unexpectedly juxtaposed objects. With an extraordinary simplicity of means and sharpness of execution that characterised his later work, Magritte created a composition filled with a sense of mystery and ambiguity, enveloping everyday images in an enigmatic atmosphere. By combining an inanimate object with a human figure, Magritte subverts the traditional genre of portraiture, thus challenging the viewer’s expectations of a work of art and inviting new interpretations of everyday occurrences.

The imagery of the present composition has its roots in Magritte’s celebrated bowler-hatted man, which has undergone several metamorphoses in which the man’s head has gradually disappeared, giving way to the oversized apple. In La carte postale of 1960 (fig. 1) the apple appears suspended in the air, like a heavy cloud, above the image of a suited man seen from the back. In Le fils de l’homme of 1964 (fig. 2) the man is seen frontally, his facial features obscured by the apple hanging in front of him. In the present work, Magritte takes this idea a step further, eliminating the man’s head altogether and replacing it entirely with the apple which looms above his suit and collar, placed against a monochrome background. In L’Idée, therefore, the figure’s identity is completely removed, alluding to the subject of a faceless modern man, which plays such a crucial part in Magritte’s iconography.

The subject of the apple appears throughout Magritte’s work in various contexts: sometimes grotesquely enlarged to fill an entire room, sometimes fossilised into stone, or, as in the series titled Le prêtre marié, where two masked apples are placed in a landscape. This simple everyday object, often associated with the traditional genre of still-life, is thus transformed into something inexplicable and unknown. In L’Idée, by replacing what otherwise would have been a human head, the apple serves as a device for Magritte’s favourite theme, that of hiding or obscuring human beings, and rendering them as faceless figures whose individuality remains a mystery to the viewer.