Lot 542
  • 542

Max Ernst

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Max Ernst
  • Le chant de la grenouille
  • signed; signed and dated 1934 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas


Julian Trevelyan, London
Simon Watson Taylor, London
E.L.T. Mesens, London
Dr. Henry M. Roland, London (by 1962)
Marc Roland (by descent from the above)
Sotheby’s, London, June 29, 1988, lot 159
Galerie Jeanne Castel, Paris
Acquired by the present owner in 1991


London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Max Ernst and Etienne Cournault, April – May 1962, cat. no. 14
Manchester, City Art Gallery and Leeds, City Art Gallery, Modern Works From the Collection of Dr. Henry M Roland, June – August 1962, cat. no. 30
Vienna, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Idole und Dämonen, July – September 1963, cat. no. 44, illustrated, p. 52
Bristol, City Art Gallery, Collection Henry Roland, February – March 1969, cat. no. 7
Stockholm Moderna Museet; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Max Ernst, September 1969 – March 1970, cat. no. 52 (Stockholm), cat. no. 49 (Amsterdam) and cat. no. 58 (Stuttgart)
Brighton Art Gallery and Museum, Follies and Fantasies, May – August 1971, cat. no. 22
London, Camden Art Centre and Edinburgh, Scottish Arts Council, Works from the Roland Collection, September - October 1976
London, Courtauld Institute Galleries; Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts; York, City Art Gallery; Oxford, Ashmolean Museum; Plymouth, City Art Museum, Works from the Roland Collection, March - May 1979, cat. no. 9, illustrated p. 35
Edinburgh, National Gallery of Modern Art, One Man's Choice, Selected works by Dr Henry Roland from his own collection & from other sources, April – May 1985, cat. no. 22


John Russell, Max Ernst, Leben und Werk, Cologne, 1966, cat. no. 61, illustrated p. 52 and titled Idole
Werner Spies, Max Ernst Oeuvre-Katalog, Werke 1929-1938, Cologne, 1979, cat. no. 2205, illustrated p. 333

Catalogue Note

The frog – a time-honoured cultural emblem of humanity – represents incredible transformation: even more so than humans, it mutates into drastically different forms from birth to adulthood. Much like the subject it depicts, Max Ernst's Le Chant de la grenouille from 1934 is a vivid transformation from the mind of the artist to his surreal rendition of the frog on canvas: with seemingly missing limbs, an abnormally long neck and an upturned pose, the amphibian's natural form is re-invented and suggested only by the artist's choice of the colour green. The frog, with its ambiguous form outlined in shades of mustard yellow, is ultimately transformed into a new animal of its own, almost like a creature from a fantastical world that is often found in Max Ernst's most famous paintings.

The theme of transition was an important element of Max Ernst's personal life during the 1930s when the present work was painted. Career-wise, the period marked the artist's rise to international stardom with the launch of his exhibition at both the Mayor Gallery in London in 1933 as well as the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1936. During this decade, he also made several trips to Asia, visiting the jungles of Indonesia. Perhaps inspired by such trips, the artist developed a fascination with animals, both organic and fantastical, which would feature prominently in many of his paintings. Le Chant de la grenouille is a fine example of such surrealist transposition, with the featured frog proving to be ever the suitable figure for portraying transitions, transmogrifications, and the transformational powers of metamorphosis.

The modifying powers of the frog are recognised throughout Chinese history. In Chinese culture, Chan Chu is the legendary three-legged money frog or toad that is revered for being a symbol of yin energy and good fortune, changing an ominous situation to a fortunate one; the frog usually sits on a pile of coins and is placed in the house to attract wealth and prosperity. Besides Le chant de la grenouille,the motif of the frog is featured in many of Max Ernst's paintings.