Lot 39
  • 39

Fernand Léger

2,800,000 - 3,500,000 USD
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  • Fernand Léger
  • La Femme aux clés
  • Signed F. Léger. and dated 30 (lower right); signed F. Léger., dated 30, and inscribed La femme aux clés 2e Etat Definitif (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 35 by 51 1/8 in.
  • 89 by 130 cm.


Dr. Ingeborg Pudelko-Eichmann, Florence & Venice

Perls Galleries, New York


Bern, Kunsthalle, Fernand Léger, 1952, no. 61


Claude Laugier & Michèle Richet, Léger, Oeuvres de Fernand Léger, 1881-1955, Paris, 1981, n.n., illustrated p. 71

Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1929-1931, Paris, 1995, no. 714, illustrated p. 185

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1930, La Femme aux clés is a striking example of Fernand Léger’s work from the 1930s that reflects his interest in color, composition and mechanical objects.  During this period, Léger shifted his focus away from the industrialism of his post-war compositions toward more natural and biomorphic forms as seen in the present composition featuring a woman and keys.

Keys were a common motif and central element present in many of Léger’s paintings from the late 1920s and early 1930s. The present work is closely related to the most important painting incorporating keys, Le Joconde aux clés from 1930 (Bauquier no. 712) in the permanent collection of Musée national Fernand Léger de Biot. In describing the incorporation of keys into his compositions Léger explained, “One day I had painted a bunch of keys on a canvas. They were my own. I had no idea what I was going to place next to them. I needed something absolutely different from the keys. When I had finished working I went out. I had hardly gone a few steps when what did I see in a shop window? A postcard of the Mona Lisa! I understood at once. What could provide a greater contrast to the keys? I achieved the most risky painting in this way from the point of view of contrasted objects" (quoted in P. De Francia, Fernand Léger, New Haven, 1983, p.111). 

The present work is one of the earliest examples of Léger’s juxtaposition of floating objects and figures in his work and exemplifies the powerful influence of Surrealism on the artist's aesthetic around 1930.  Although the artist never aligned himself formally with this group of painters, Léger, ever at the forefront of the avant-garde, was not immune to the appeal of the biomorphic imagery that pervaded the pictures of Miró and Dalí during these years. The present composition is a fine example of how Léger incorporated the linear flourishes and amoeboid forms of Surrealist iconography into his Purist aesthetic practices.