Testament to Magritte’s enthusiastic reading of 1001 Nights in summer 1946, the face of Sheherazade fades into transparency here to form floating lace. This new motif shows Magritte’s taste for the magical: from the face made of pearls hangs a small bell, a fetish object that recurs many times in the artist’s oeuvre. He explained that he had admired the resonant metal object around the necks of cows during his childhood. Alongside these two elements, Magritte plays upon the revealing and concealing of eroticism, with the curtain that masks the bell’s pendant. We can never know what it conceals. The appearance of the fantastical, associated with childhood memories, bestows the green landscape with a singular, pink-tinged strangeness, heightening the invitation to pleasure conjured by Magritte’s art at the end of the 1940s.
Jacqueline Gourbeyre, nicknamed Linette, kept this work by her bedside until the end of her life. This picture, an ode to life’s happiness, was given to her by the poet Joë Bousquet in 1948, because he wanted to create a “link” between their two bedrooms (as the poet himself confides in a letter to Magritte dated 29th September 1948): her student bedsit in Toulouse and the room in Carcassone where a terrible war injury has confined the “immobile poet”.
On the reverse of this gouache a beautiful poem is signed “son ami Joë”:
Death, the biggest eyes that love me
Two roses in my blood
Where the sea never flows the same way
The thirst that burns her inside,
Where childhood dances chase me
From a body that she has bathed without me
My heart puts the world in my place
I become the night that sees it.”
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