Lot 44
  • 44

Remedios Varo (1908-1963)

900,000 - 1,200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Remedios Varo
  • Astro Errante (The Wandering Star)
  • signed lower right
  • oil on masonite
  • 30 by 16 in.
  • 76 by 41 cm
  • Painted in 1961.


María Félix, Mexico
Enrique Alvarez Félix, Mexico
Manola Saavedra, Mexico
Sale: Christie's, New York, Important Latin American Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, and Prints, May 17, 1993, lot 11, illustrated in color
Private Collection, Mexico City


Walter Gruen, Ricardo Ovalle, et. al., Remedios Varo, Catálogo Razonado, Tercera Edición, Mexico, 2008, no. 313, p. 259, illustrated in color


This work is in beautiful condition. The paint layer is clean and very lightly varnished. There are no damages. No retouches are apparent under ultraviolet light. The work should be hung in its current state. (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

Remedios Varo’s Astro Errante (The Wandering Star, 1961) resonates with the physical, psychic and cosmic energy that shaped the artist’s painting after she settled in Mexico during World War II. Wrapped in a tattered blue cloak the figure, which also recalls images of the Wandering Jew in nineteenth-century European painting, is identifiable here by the fiery stellar heat and light that radiate from its body. The tiny stars that twinkle underfoot indicate the work’s celestial origins, as does the nebulous cloud-like landscape that the figure traverses.  

Despite its cosmic setting Varo’s “wandering star” also evokes real journeys, particularly those that propelled the artist from a childhood in Catalonia to Madrid’s famed Academy de San Fernando, and then to Paris, marriage to surrealist poet Benjamin Peret, Marseille and Mexico City. It also hints at the psychic journey that led the artist—who fled Civil War, imprisonment, and German military Occupation—to align her art as well as her life with esoteric, alchemical, cosmic and magical traditions. A brilliant draftswoman who worked with precision and technical finesse, she found a role for the artist in creating as well as imitating nature and the cosmos. The result was exquisite paintings charged with magic for, as her biographer Janet Kaplan noted, Varo believed that all of humanity was “bound by a cosmic mysterious destiny.[1]”

In Paris, drawn to the surrealist technique of fumage in which a lighted candle flame is passed quickly across a canvas covered with wet oil paint, Varo experimented with both subject matter and materials. Her 1938 painting The Souls of the Mountains (fig. 1) offers an early example of her life-long technical skill as she transforms plumes of smoke into feathery clouds that swirl around the mountains. Within their craggy peaks human heads suggestive of the souls that inhabit the mountains are visible.

Resettled in Mexico where the government offered protection to all Spanish refugees, Varo and Peret became members of a vibrant surrealist movement in exile that included artists Gunther Gerszo, Kati and José Horna, and Leonora Carrington, among others. In Mexico Varo and Carrington formed a friendship based on intellectual, artistic and spiritual affinities that inspired their investigations into alchemy, witchcraft, and the Kabbalah, as well as a wide range of esoteric beliefs. The latter—spiritual, psychic and cosmic—played a major role in pictorial programs that were often realized in accordance with Gurdjieffian and other mystical philosophies. In Carrington’s 1953 painting Are You Really Syrious (Fig. 2) a group of dogs gather to contemplate Sirius, the Dog Star and brightest star in the night sky, and one celebrated by ancient cultures that included the Egyptians.

Even as her all-embracing creative vision was shaped by a synthesis of mysticism and magic with art, Varo remained attracted to the logic and order of the scientific method she had inherited from her engineer father. The Escape, (Fig. 3) executed the same year as Astro Errante, depicts a young woman and her male companion ascending through billowing clouds into mountainous terrain. Violent winds tear at their clothing and threaten the fantastic and carefully crafted vehicle that propels them upward for they, like the “wandering star,” are subject both to cosmic and human forces. For Varo detail mattered, but so also did powers that defy human intervention, including a wandering star personified as a human figure capable of absorbing and surviving forces equal to those of galactic explosions. Always conscious of the fine line between the mundane and the magical, the real and the marvelous, the artist seldom shied away from representing both realms in works like Astro Errante with its intimations of celestial disruption and errant behavior.

Whitney Chadwick, Ph.D., 2016.  Whitney Chadwick, PhD is an art historian and the author of the first full-length study in English of the women artists of Surrealism (Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement [1985]). She has written widely on surrealism, women artists and contemporary Art. Her forthcoming book (Farewell to the Muse: Love, War and the Women of Surrealism) will be published by Thames and Hudson in 2017.

[1]  Janet A. Kaplan, Unexpected Journeys: The Art and Life of Remedios Varo (New York: Abbeville Press, 1988), 181.