Lot 42
  • 42

RENÉ MAGRITTE | Ciel-bouteille

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • René Magritte
  • Ciel-bouteille
  • oil on glass bottle
  • height: 30cm.
  • 11 3/4 in.
  • Painted in 1940.


Georgette Magritte (the artist’s widow; by descent from the artist and until her death in 1986) Sale: Sotheby’s, London, The Remaining Contents of the Studio of René Magritte, 2nd July 1987, lot 863

Château Giscours, Bordeaux (purchased at the above sale)

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Le Surréalisme: sources, histoire, affinités, 1964, possibly no. 196 (titled Ciel bleu and as dating from 1960) Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen & Stockholm, Moderna Museet, René Magritte: Het mysterie van de werkelijkheid / Le mystère de la réalité, 1967, no. 95 (in Rotterdam); no. 26 (in Stockholm), illustrated in the catalogue (titled Object peint – Bouteille and as dating from 1930)


Feuille d’avis de Lausanne magazine, Lausanne, 1st November 1961, illustrated p. 6 Paris Match Bénélux, Brussels, 26th August 1967, illustrated in a photograph with Magritte p. B1

Jacques Wergifosse, ‘Les sensations dépaysées’, in Le Fait accompli, no. 104, Brussels, January 1974, no. IX

Harry Torczyner, Magritte: Ideas and Images, New York, 1977, no. 221, illustrated in colour p. 124 (titled Ciel)

Bolaffiarte, Milan, February-March 1979, illustrated p. 42

Duane Michals, A Visit with Magritte, Providence, R.I., 1981, illustrated in a photograph of the interior of Magritte’s home

Barbara Stoeltie, ‘After Magritte’, in The World of Interiors, London, April 1986, illustrated in colour in a photograph with Georgette Magritte p. 147

Le Soir, Brussels, 24th September 1986, illustrated in a photograph of the interior of Magritte’s home p. 22

Anthony Thorncroft, ‘Magritte’s Week’, in Financial Times, 4th July 1987, mentioned

Isabelle de Wavrin, 'Magritte vedette des ventes londoniennes', in La Vie française, 13th-19th July 1987, illustrated p. 97

Jacques Meuris, René Magritte, London, 1988, fig. 388, illustrated in a photograph of the interior of Magritte’s home p. 228

David Sylvester (ed.) & Sarah Whitfield, René Magritte. Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1993, vol. II, no. 697, illustrated p. 441 (as dating from circa 1943)

Patrick Roegiers, Magritte and Photography, Aldershot, 2005, figs. 183 & 195, illustrated in photographs of the interior of Magritte’s home pp. 133 & 143

Barbara Stoeltie, ‘Back to Surreality’, in The World of Interiors, October 2017, illustrated in a photograph with Georgette Magritte p. 309

Catalogue Note

In her discussion of Magritte’s painted bottles, Sarah Whitfield wrote: ‘Magritte began painting on bottles during the Occupation, possibly in the autumn of 1940 when he wrote to Edward James telling him about his new idea. Some months later James, who had moved to America and was trying to find ways of helping Magritte, reminded him of that letter and suggested that a ready market for painted bottles was to be found in the States. “It’s New York taste exactly, and Hollywood’s too,” he told him, and pointed out that New Yorkers, who were more sophisticated than Londoners, had long shown a taste for that sort of “fantasy”. The war prevented Magritte from putting James’s theory to the test but did not deter him from painting bottles to sell or give away at home. Many were done in response to requests from friends and collectors’ (S. Whitfield in Magritte (exhibition catalogue), The Hayward Gallery, London, 1992, n.p.). A document hand-written by Magritte and recently discovered at the Paul-Gustave Van Hecke archives shows that eight painted bottles, as well as several small paintings and objects, were deposited in September 1940 at the boutique of ‘Norine’, the most fashionable fashion stylist in Brussels at the time, with whom Magritte had already collaborated in the 1920s. Ciel-bouteille was among this group of works, demonstrating that it was created by the autumn of 1940, and was one of the very first painted bottles in Magritte’s œuvre.

The present work is one of three painted bottles that remained in the collection of the artist’s widow Georgette Magritte until her death in 1986, and were auctioned as part of the sale of Magritte’s estate at Sotheby’s London the following year, where Ciel-bouteille was acquired by the Bordeaux winery Château Giscours. This group also includes Femme-bouteille from 1940 which, according to Georgette Magritte, was the first to be made. Magritte would paint at least twenty-five more bottles over the following decades, the last of which were two commissioned in 1964 by the Chicago collector Barnet Hodes. While their exact dates are not known, Sarah Whitfield points out: ‘Insofar as these objects can be dated, the ones painted during the war tend to be Bordeaux bottles, but they also include one or two which were manufactured for port or sherry (these were occasionally used for bottling wine during the war when there was a shortage of glass)’ (ibid., n.p.).

The image of a bright blue sky punctuated with white and grey clouds is one of the most iconic in Magritte’s œuvre, often used as part of a paradoxical landscape or superimposed onto various shapes such as a bird. In the oil La Malédiction painted in 1931 Magritte for the first time stripped this image of any background or context, and augmented it to become the sole subject of the composition. A cloudy sky soon became one of the artist’s most iconic motifs, and he would use it on objects such as the mask titled L’Avenir des statues. Magritte used this image on two bottles; the other one, dating from 1950 and titled La Courbure de l’univers, is now in The Menil Collection, Houston.