- Leonora Carrington
- Bird Superior, Portrait of Max Ernst
- Oil on canvas
- 19 3/4 by 10 1/2 in.
- 50.2 by 26.7 cm
Private Collection, Paris
Timothy Baum, New York (acquired from the above circa 1968)
Gerrit Lansing, New York (acquired from the above)
Judith Mallin, New York
Timothy Baum, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 2000
London, Serpentine Gallery, Leonora Carrington, Paintings, drawings and sculptures, 1940-1990, 1991-1992, no. 5, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Liz Dawtrey, Investigating Modern Art, New Haven, 1996, no. 77, illustrated in color p. 100
Delia Gaze, Dictionary of Women Artists, vol. I, London, 1997, n.n., illustrated p. 363
M.E. Warlick, Max Ernst and Alchemy: A Magician in Search of Myth, Austin, 2001, fig. 6.10, illustrated p. 163
Annie Lebrun, Leonora Carrington: La mariée du vent, Paris, 2008, fig. 11, illustrated in color p. 38
Irish Museum of Modern Art, Leonora Carrington (exhibition catalogue), Dublin, 2013, n.n., illustrated in color p. 143
In this mysterious double portrait, Carrington depicts Ernst as a hermit standing on a glacial formation. Carrington incorporates herself into the painting via metamorphosis. A white horse, her avatar, is shrouded in icicles in the background of the composition and in the lantern held by Ernst. This portrayal of Ernst derives from alchemical lore and recalls the image of a Hermit from a tarot card. Like the Hermit Tarot, Ernst symbolizes introspection and isolation.
In a recent exhibition catalogue of Carrington’s work, Sarah Glennie wrote about this double portrait, inspired by the symbolism in Carrington's writing: “In her short story The Bird Superior Max Ernst, published in the special edition of the American journal View (April 1942), and dedicated to Ernst, Carrington wrote of the Bird Superior (Ernst) and a horse (Carrington) becoming one in the presence of an alchemical fire and cauldron. Their union was symbolized by Ernst transforming into a bird who unties the horse from the fire so that together they are freed to escape through the war winds which leap out of the pot like smoke, like hair, like wind. Love is here represented by the philosopher’s stone, but the cauldron (symbolizing rebirth), the horse (symbolizing escape) and the bird (symbolizing renewal) tend to all evoke a quintessentially Celtic goddess iconography” (quoted in Leonora Carrington (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 142).