Lot 384
  • 384

Paul Delvaux

120,000 - 180,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Paul Delvaux
  • Femme endormie
  • Signed with the initials P.D, dated 1-34 and inscribed SPY (lower right)
  • Watercolor, pen and ink and ink wash on paper
  • 21 3/4 by 29 1//2 in.
  • 55.2 by 74.9 cm


Galerie Lou Cosyn, Brussels
Bertouille Collection, Paris (acquired by 1977)
Private Collection


Brussels, MuseĢes royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique, Hommage à Paul Delvaux, 1977, no. 5
Turin, Palazzo Bricherasio, Il surrealismo di Paul Delvaux tra Magritte e de Chirico, 2005-06, no. 42, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Catalogue Note

Paul Delvaux’s Femme endormie was executed at a point in the artist's career when he had established himself, alongside René Magritte, as the best known Surrealist artist in Belgium. By exhibiting his work in several of the international Surrealist exhibitions organised by André Breton throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, Delvaux earned his place amongst the daring avant-garde artists of the time, such as Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí. Although his paintings were occasionally considered controversial for their frank depictions of nudity and unabashed sensuality, Delvaux's work was widely appreciated for its beguilingly mysterious subject matter and the superb modelling of its figures.  

Delvaux’s approach to this work was subtle in its representation of the uncanny. Femme endormie offers a seemingly staged interior in which the curtains have been pulled back to present a figure, whose inexplicable nudity is the startling element of this otherwise inconspicuous composition. Without being overly grotesque or offensive, he interrupts the commonplace with the bizarre in the form of dreamlike, yet uneasy, eroticism, thus pushing the otherwise localized scene to an unknown midpoint between reality and illusion. Gisèle Ollinger-Zinque wrote: "The real essence of Delvaux's work is expressed in the feminine presence; it is there that the most violent part of the mystery resides. Breton immediately realised this. The Delvaux woman is not just any woman: she is sphinx-like, having no past and no future. She is fixed in her immobility, indifferent to the people around her; she waits for something that does not happen and will never happen. She is self-absorbed, fated to a life of wondering and solitude, to an eternal but unwanted virginity (Gisèle Ollinger-Zinque in Paul Delvaux 1897-1994 (exhibition catalogue), Musées royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique, Brussels, 1997, pp. 22-23).