Lot 32
  • 32

RENÉ MAGRITTE | Le coup au cœur

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • René Magritte
  • Le coup au cœur
  • signed Magritte (upper left); titled and dated 1956 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 20 by 15.4cm.
  • 7 7/8 by 6in.
  • Painted in 1956.


Clare Booth Luce, USA (acquired from the artist. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 11th May 1988, lot 413) Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels (purchased at the above sale)

Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in 1988


David Sylvester (ed.), Sarah Whitfield & Michael Raeburn, René Magritte, Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1993, vol. III, no. 843, illustrated p. 262

Catalogue Note

The image of the rose first appeared in Magritte’s art as a detail in larger compositions, such as La belle du nuit of 1940 and Le beau navire of 1942 (figs. 1 & 2), and in the following decade the artist isolated the rose as the main protagonist of several oils and gouaches (fig. 3). The composite subject of the rose and dagger was first realised in a 1952 painting also titled Le coup au cœur (D. Sylvester, op. cit., no. 777), of which the present work is a smaller version. As was the case with many of his compositions, Le coup au cœur was the artist’s solution to what he called ‘the problem of the rose’. Magritte started working on it in 1951, writing to his dealer Alexander Iolas in October of that year: ‘My present research, at the beginning of winter, is concerned with the rose. I must find something precious and worthy to say about it’ (quoted in D. Sylvester (ed.), op. cit., p. 196). His highly idiosyncratic method of choosing a ‘problem’ object in order to find a ‘solution’ that would illuminate and enhance the object’s reality has something in common with the automatism practised by Breton and his friends in the early years of Surrealism. Magritte may not have been aware of this when he wrote to Paul Eluard on 27th November 1951 about his new painting: ‘According to a method which, I think, is employed solely by me, for about two months I have been looking for a solution to what I call “The problem of the rose”. My research now having been completed, I realize that I had probably known the answer to my question for a long time, but in an obscure fashion, and not only I myself but any other man likewise. This kind of knowledge, which seems to be organic and doesn’t rise to the level of consciousness, was always present, at the beginning of every effort of research I made. […] After completion of the research, it can be “easily” explained that the rose is scented air, but it is also cruel’ (quoted in D. Sylvester (ed.) et al., op. cit., p. 197).

In the same letter Magritte sketched his ‘solution’, showing a rose and dagger against a stone wall – not in a landscape as in the present composition – asking Eluard to find ‘a fine title for the picture’ (ibid., p. 197). In the end, however, Magritte chose the title Le coup au cœur, found by the poet Paul Nougé. A drawing in the letter shows a rose with a sharp oblique line sticking out from the stalk of the flower, a line that Magritte says ‘called for long and painful research, for its meaning to become known to me’. The genesis of that line, which Magritte eventually translated into a dagger, is obviously the thorn. The contradiction between the sweetness and softness of the rose and the cruel sharpness of its thorns is a paradox that Magritte would have enjoyed and sought to underline by augmenting the rose’s natural weapon – its thorn – into an actual weapon – a dagger. A passage written by Nougé also addresses this contradiction inherent in the image of the rose: ‘We perceive the rose’s faint perfume by means of a heartrending memory’ (P. Nougé, quoted in Harry Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, New York, 1977, p. 90).


The first owner of this work was Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987), an American writer, journalist, ambassador and Congresswoman. She wrote for the theatre, film and magazines, and was also the editor of fashion magazines including Vogue and Vanity Fair. After the outbreak of the Second World War, Luce left her career as an editor and travelled to Europe and the Far East, where she worked as a war journalist. In the 1940s she held a seat in the US Congress, and in 1953 became the US Ambassador to Italy. Luce owned several gouaches and small scale paintings by Magritte, all acquired directly from the artist. After her death in 1987, her works by Dalí and Magritte, including the present oil, were sold at Sotheby’s New York. For the last thirty years the present work has been in the same family collection, and further works by Magritte from this collection will be offered in the Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale, London, 1st March 2018.