Lot 17
  • 17

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

1,800,000 - 2,200,000 USD
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  • Leonora Carrington
  • The Temptation of St. Anthony
  • signed and dated 1945 lower left 
  • oil on canvas
  • 48 by 35 3/4 in.
  • 122 by 91 cm


Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
Maureen Moorhead Carrington, Isle of Man
Sale: Christie's, New York, Important Latin American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, May 18, 1992, lot 20, illustrated in color


Washington, D.C., Bel Ami International Competition, 1946-1947, p. 16, illustrated
San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, April 1947
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Leonora Carrington, 1948
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Painting in the United States, 1948, October 14-December 12, 1948
Leeds, Art Company, Leonora Carrington, 1990
London, Serpentine Gallery, December 1991-January 1992; Preston, Harris Museum, February 1-March 31, 1992; Bristol, Arnolfini, April 10-May 10, 1992, Leonora Carrington, Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures 1940-1990, no. 11, p. 62, illustrated in color
San Francisco, The Mexican Museum, Leonora Carrington: The Mexican Years 1943-1985, December 11, 1991-March 1, 1992, p. 32, illustrated
Monterrey, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Leonora Carrington: Una Retrospectiva, September 9, 1994-January, 1995 
Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum, March 3-May 28, 1995; Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, July 7-October 1, 1995, Latin American Women Artists 1915-1995,  no. 5b, p. 110, illustrated in color
Tokyo, Tokyo Station Gallery, October 14-November 12, 1997; Umeda-Osaka, Daimaru Museum, February 11-February 23, 1998; Hida Takayama Museum of Art, February 28-March 29, 1998; Mie Prefectual Art Museum, April 4-May 5, 1998, Leonora Carrington, no. 16, p. 57, illustrated in color


Marcel Jean, The History of Surrealist Paintings, New York, 1967, p. 323, illustrated
René Passeron, Phaidon Encyclopedia of Surrealism, Oxford, 1978, p. 134, illustrated
Uwe M. Schneede, Surrealism, The Movement and the Masters, New York, 1973, p. 102, illustrated
Pari tí, la rebelde del Surrealismo, February 24, 1992, no. 3633, illustrated in color
Whitney Chadwick, Leonora Carrington, La Realidad de la Imaginación, Mexico, 1994, no. 8, illustrated in color
Tilman Spengler, Leonora Carrington, Frankfurt, 1995, p. 79, illustrated in color   


This work is in lovely condition. The paint layer has probably never been cleaned, and the sheen to the paint layer is probably original. The canvas is very well stretched, and there are no cracks or distortions to the paint layer. There are no retouches. While it would respond to a light cleaning, this may be a painting that should retain its original patina. (This condition report has been provided courtesy of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.)
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.

Catalogue Note

It is quite out of the ordinary that a film-maker in the mid 1940s would organize a competition of ten reputable artists to produce a painting to be featured in one of his movies. Albert Lewin asked Leonora Carrington, Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Dorothea Tanning, Paul Delvaux, among others to paint a surrealist version of an often repeated subject in art and literature: The Temptation of Saint Anthony. Hieronymus Bosch and Michelangelo´s versions are perhaps the better known of all. The jury of the competition was composed of Alfred Barr, first director of MoMA, Marcel Duchamp and Sidney Janis. Dalí participated with one of his best known paintings now at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Brussels. Max Ernst's version, now at the Wilhelm-Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, Germany won the competition with a version much inspired on Grunewald and other early Renaissance German painters.

First recorded by Athanasius of Alexandria, the Temptation of St Anthony details the actions, teachings and many sufferings of Anthony the Great, an Egyptian, and one of the early Church Fathers. Inspired by a phrase in the Gospel of Matthew: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me," the Tempation of St. Anthony became a popular legend in thirteenth-century Europe. Many of the more notable examples appear to deal with a passage in which Anthony, having recently left his parents and all of his worldly goods to pursue the life of a monk, descends into a cave where he is tempted by demons. 

Carrington´s version could not have won the competition. The jury was focused on pleasing Lewin with some horrific demons for his movie, Bel Ami, loosely based on the novel by nineteenth-century French author Guy de Montpassantl. In Carrington´s large painting, St. Anthony is represented as a frail old man who seems to disappear within himself under an umbrella-like monastic robe “bleached out by the vagaries of the weather” in her own words. The Saint is presumably sitting in the Egyptian desert, the Nile River flowing from the upper right. By her own account of the painting reported by Dr. Solomon Grimberg, his left hand points at the Queen of Sheba and her servants and “the bald-headed girl in the red dress combines female charm and the delights of the table. The mixture of the ingredients has overflowed and taken a greenish and sickly hue to the fevered vision of St Anthony, whose daily meal consists on withered grass and tepid water with an occasional locust by way of an orgy.”

This painting was exhibited at Pierre Matisse Gallery in 1948 during her solo exhibition in the prestigious New York gallery. Commenting on her Saint Anthony, Leonora Carrington, eternally humorous and cryptic said: “The picture seems pretty clear to me, being a more or less a literal rendering of St Anthony complete with pig, desert and temptation. Naturally, one could ask why the venerable holy man has three heads, to which one could always reply, why not?”