Lot 10
  • 10

Joan Miró

6,000,000 - 9,000,000 USD
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  • Joan Miró
  • L'Oiseau encerclant d'or étincelant la pensée du poète
  • Signed Miró (lower center); signed Miró and titled and dated 1951 on the reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 23 5/8 by 31 7/8 in.
  • 60 by 81 cm


Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York

Acquired from the above in December 1954


Jacques Dupin, Miró, New York, 1962, no. 784, illustrated p. 559

Jacques Dupin & Ariane Lelong-Mainaud, Miró, Catalogue raisonné, Paintings 1942-1955, Paris, 2001, vol. III, no. 895, illustrated p. 178


Excellent condition. Original canvas. Some slight abrasion at upper left corner and to the edge at top left. The impasto is intact and the colors are vibrant and fresh.
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

Miró's fantastical composition from 1951, translated from French as The sparkling gold bird encircles the thought of the poet, exemplifies the expressive potential of abstraction.  In the case of the present work, the title of the painting clarifies the action it depicts, adding a narrative that would be otherwise indecipherable based on the images alone. Other works painted around this time bear similarly elucidating titles. Descriptions such as The Bird with a calm look, its wings in flames or The Bird Boom-Boom makes his appeal to the head onion peel entice the viewer to consider each element of the composition more closely. These lyrical titles assign identities to otherwise unrelated images, creating a new visual vocabulary of signs and symbols from which the viewer is left to piece together the events of the scene.  

When Miró painted this work in 1951, he had already become acquainted with the new techniques and aesthetic agenda of the Abstract Expressionists. He first saw their work in New York in 1947, and the experience, the artist would later recall, was like ‘a blow to the solar plexus.’ Several young painters, including Jackson Pollock, were crediting Miró as their inspiration for their wild, paint-splattered canvases. Miró was both flattered and a bit awed by the acknowledgement, not knowing immediately what to think of it. But in the years that followed he created works that responded to the enthusiasm of this younger generation of American painters and the spontaneity of their art. The paintings he created at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s are a fascinating response to these new trends of abstraction, but also they show Miró’s allegiance to his own artistic pursuits. “For me a form is never something abstract,” he said at the end of the 1940s, “it is always a sign of something. It is always a man, a bird, or something else. For me painting is never form for form’s sake” (Margit Rowell, op. cit., p. 207). 

The present work exemplifies the expressive power of images, even though the images in the picture bear no resemblance to the natural world. Miró is solely reliant upon the lexicon of signs and symbols that he had developed over the years. As Jacques Dupin wrote with regard to the works of the early 1950s: “To study the form, their distribution and their composition, to elucidate the rhythms and the distribution of the colors, gets us nowhere. Precisely because the artist has not elaborated, but has let us come face to face with the pure creative act itself, our instruments of investigation are useless. And yet the brutal forms thus projected are neither arbitrary nor are they mere products of some automatism. They are always related to Miró’s vocabulary of signs and other elements of his language, but they are spontaneous; they are not worked up emanations of this language, but a deliberate simplification of it. Hence their expressive power is all the greater; their energy has been caught at the source and let go at once, the sign being the condensed vehicle of subterranean energy that otherwise would be dispersed and lost “(Jacques Dupin, Miró, Barcelona & New York, 1993, p. 294).

In a dialogue between Miró and Rafael Santos Torroella in March 1951, the artist offered advice to young painters, and his words are an insight into the point of view and underlying motivations that inspired the present work: “He who wants to really achieve something has to flee from things that are easy and pay no attention to… artistic bureaucracy, which is completely lacking in spiritual concerns. What is more absurd than killing yourself to copy a highlight on a bottle? If that was all painting was about, it wouldn’t be worth the effort”. In response, Torroella asked, “What about abstract art then,” to which Miró replied, “No. That is not the way to spiritual freedom. You don’t gain even a centimeter of freedom from art that’s governed by cold formulas. You only get your freedom by sweating for it, by an inner struggle “(quoted in Margit Rowell, op. cit., p. 226).