Lot 319
  • 319

RENÉ MAGRITTE | L’Émpire de la réflexion

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • René Magritte
  • L’Émpire de la réflexion
  • signed Magritte (lower right); signed Magritte, dated 1947 and titled on the verso
  • gouache on paper
  • 36.8 by 46cm., 14 1/2 by 18 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 1947.


Iolas Gallery, New York (acquired directly from the artist in August 1949)
Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in 1987


New York, Hugo Gallery, René Magritte, 1948, no. 22
Los Angeles, Copley Galleries, Magritte, 1948, no. 19
Brussels, Galerie Isy Brachot, Rétrospective Magritte, dans les collections privées, 1988, n.n., illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Ostend, Provinciaal Museum voor Moderne Kunst, René Magritte, 1990, no. 45, illustrated in the catalogue


Letter from Magritte to Alexander Iolas, 23rd February 1948
Letter from Magritte to Alexander Iolas, 11th March 1948
Statement of account from Magritte to Alexander Iolas, 8th August 1949
David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn (eds.), René Magritte, Catalogue raisonné, London1994, vol. IV, no. 1246, illustrated p. 94

Catalogue Note

‘It is in short the ever more rigorous search for what, in my view, is the essential element in art; purity and precision in the image of mystery which becomes decisive through being shorn of everything incidental or accidental’
(René Magritte quoted in David Sylvester (ed.), René Magritte: Catalogue Raisonné, Oil Paintings, Objects, 1931-1948, New York, 1993, vol. II, p. 288) Possessing a striking ethereal beauty, L’Émpire de la réflexion is a testament to René Magritte's quiet powers of subversion: overturning the viewer’s expectations and challenging the way in which we perceive the world around us. In the present work, Magritte positions the Earth as a celestial body hovering above a verdant landscape in the place habitually occupied by the moon. We can discern the outlines of the American and African continents although they appear in unexpected positions as if reflected in a mirror so that a sense of other-worldliness pervades; the viewer stands on terra firma, gazing out at an unfamiliar version of our world reflected back at them. The curiously empty landscape stretches to the far horizon with no signs of human presence, vistas of a new world opening up to explore and discover.

Executed in 1947, Magritte's depiction of the Earth as a serene microcosm floating within the sky is remarkably prescient of the celebrated photographs taken over two decades later from the surface of the moon which similarly revealed our planet floating, jewel-like, within space. Intriguingly, Magritte himself wrote of this work: ‘in the sky a large mirror sends back to us the image of the earth’ (quoted in David Sylvester, Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn (eds.), op. cit. p. 94). This vast looking-glass also arguably serves as a metaphorical mirror of the soul, projecting back the interior monologues of those witnesses to its presence, ensuring that every interpretation of L’Émpire de la réflexion is a uniquely personal one.