Lot 12
  • 12

René Magritte

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • René Magritte
  • Le Message à la terre
  • Signed Magritte (lower left); titled LE MESSAGE A LA TERRE on the stretcher
  • Oil on canvas
  • 29 1/2 by 25 5/8 in.
  • 75 by 65 cm


Jean van Parys, Brussels (acquired from the artist)

Jeanne van Parys-Maryssael, Brussels (by descent from the above circa 1964)

Private Collection, New York

Private Collection, Switzerland

Acquired from the above in 2013


Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, René Magritte, 1954, no. 3

Charleroi, Belgium, Salle da la Bourse, XXXe Salon du Cercle Royal Artistique et Littéraire de Charleroi, Retrospective René Magritte, 1956, no. 28

Knokke, Belgium, Casino Communal, XVe Festival Belge d'été: L'Oeuvre de René Magritte, 1962, no. 14

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts & Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne-Centre Georges Pompidou, Rétrospective Magritte, 1978-79, no. 18, illustrated in the catalogue

Naples, The Baker Museum, Surrealism in Belgium, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, illustrated in color on the cover and p. 82


Helmut Oehlers, "Figur und Raum in den Werken von Max Ernst, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí und Paul Delvaux, zwischen 1925 und 1938," Europäische Hochshulschriften, vol. 54, Frankfurt, 1986, illustrated p. 182

David Sylvester (ed.), Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, Oil Paintings, 1916-1930, London, 1992, vol. I, no. 119, illustrated p. 195

David Sylvester, Magritte, The Silence of the World, New York, 1992, n.n., illustrated in color p. 74

René-Marie Jongen, René Magritte ou la Pensée Imagée de l'Invisible: Réflexions et Recherches, Brussels, 1994, mentioned p. 124

Siegfried Gohr, Magritte: Attempting the Impossible, New York, 2009, illustrated in color p. 31

Catalogue Note

Magritte's most compelling works, including Le Message à la terre, are imbued with a strong sense of mystery.  "Mystery is invisible," the artist wrote to his friend, the poet André Bosmans, "It (like nothingness) is important not because it is invisible, but because it is absolutely necessary" (From a letter dated September 25, 1964 published in Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, New York, 1977, p. 170). 

As is the case with his most successful Surrealist compositions, each element in Le Message à la terre is more enigmatic than the next. Enframed within the picture are a saturated red meteor and gathered curtain, two objects that are seemingly unrelated but united within the pictorial space of the artist's composition. Magritte's penchant for unifying the unrelated in a single image can be seen in previous compositions, but his approach here makes the assemblage all the more enigmatic.  Although he returned to the individual elements of this motif several times in other compositions, but the arrangement here is the most thought-provoking and presents an ambiguous "message to earth." 

Magritte painted this work in 1926 at the beginning of his highly prolific career as a Surrealist.  Pictures from this period are characterized by smooth surfaces and a strange theatricality.  He was inspired by the Italian metaphysical painter, Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), when in 1923 he saw a reproduction of the iconic Song of Love, which supposedly brought Magritte to tears. Le Message à la terre is a particularly strong tribute to the Italian artist.  He borrows several of de Chirico's motifs – the painting within a painting, the desolate background, classical drapery – and positions them at sharp angles receding into space.  Magritte would continue to adapt many of these same elements, throughout his career, but the present work is one of the earliest manifestation of the Italian's influences.  

Please note the present work has been requested for loan to the Magritte retrospective Magritte, La trahison des images that is planned at the Centre Pompidou in Paris from September 2016 through January 2017.