René Magritte’s “L’empire des lumières” Masterpiece

Christie’s recently unveiled the star of their upcoming 20th Century Evening Sale, as they proudly present René Magritte’s masterpiece, “L’empire des lumières.”

This iconic artwork, one of 17 oil paintings in the series, will be the talk of the town on November 9, 2023, during the highly anticipated New York Marquee Week of sales. Its rich history, prestigious ownership, and surreal charm make it a must-see for art enthusiasts and collectors alike.

A Historic Masterpiece with a Storied Past

Renowned as the first private owner of “L’empire des lumières,” Nelson A. Rockefeller, then chairman and president of Chase National Bank in Rockefeller Center, acquired this extraordinary piece shortly after its completion. This fall, the masterpiece embarks on a journey to Taiwan before making its triumphant return to Rockefeller Center, where it is expected to fetch an estimated $25 million to $35 million.

Max Carter, Christie’s Vice Chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art, remarked, “In 1949, Magritte embarked on the series of 17 paintings that would define him. Formerly in the collections of Nelson Rockefeller and Daniel Filipacchi, L’empire des lumières introduced this now-iconic series to the world and broke the record for any work by Magritte in its only appearance at auction. We are deeply honoured to offer this historic masterpiece in November.”

Surreal Brilliance: “L’empire des lumières”

“L’empire des lumières” stands as a beacon of René Magritte’s unique artistic vision. Translating to “the dominion of light,” this masterpiece is a sublime example of the artist’s surrealist prowess. It envelops viewers in a world of mystery, leaving them spellbound by the seamless coexistence of day and night within a single frame.

René Magritte's "L'empire des lumières" Masterpiece at Christie's

Magritte devoted 15 years, from 1949 to 1964, to creating a total of 17 oil paintings in this series, complemented by an additional ten in gouache. The painting currently in the spotlight is the first completed canvas, although not the first one the artist embarked upon. Over the next 14 years, Magritte crafted 16 more oils, all subtle variations on the theme of simultaneous night and day, satisfying the demand of avid collectors who couldn’t resist the charm of this enigmatic masterpiece.

As Magritte eloquently put it, the magic of works like “L’empire des lumières” lies in their ability to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. Executed with meticulous precision, the painting’s uncanny, contradictory scene elevates Surrealism to its pinnacle. It presents a captivating paradox where the familiar becomes unfamiliar, and the commonplace is rendered extraordinary.

A Masterpiece in High Demand

Versions of “L’empire des lumières” found their way into the collections of distinguished art patrons, including Jean and Dominique de Menil, Harry Torczyner, Peggy Guggenheim, and, of course, Nelson A. Rockefeller, the previous custodian of this remarkable artwork. Notably, three out of the 17 paintings from the series are among the top ten record prices ever achieved for Magritte at auction, with the world record standing at an astounding $79.4 million, set during the spring of the previous year.

In conclusion, René Magritte’s “L’empire des lumières” is a testament to the artist’s genius, captivating collectors and art enthusiasts alike with its surreal charm and rich history.

As it takes the spotlight at Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale, this masterpiece is poised to make waves in the art world once again, promising an unforgettable experience for those who appreciate the extraordinary within the ordinary.

Images: Christie’s

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