René Magritte’s Empire of Lights has been sold for 71.5 million euros in London, a record for the painter.

René Magritte Painting
L’empire des Lumières by Maritte, copyright sotheby’s

Few minutes of bidding

It only took a few minutes of bidding by telephone for L’Empire des Lumières, a true masterpiece by the Belgian surrealist, to smash its estimate and mark history. The previous auction record for a work by Magritte was previously held by The Principle of Pleasure, a portrait of Edward James painted in 1937, sold for 26.8 million dollars (about 23 million euros) in 2018 at Sotheby’s in New York. A cinematographic work « The eerie combination of a dark street, at night under a bright blue sky is typical of Magritte’s bewildering surreal imagery – in which two seemingly incompatible things come together to create a false reality, » the auction house described.

This painting inspired a scene of The Exorcist

. Sotheby’s describes this painting as « the most cinematic » of Magritte’s work. « Testifying its striking force, the work even inspired a scene from the classic ‘The Exorcist’ released in 1973, winner of a Golden Globe », recalls the auction house, specifying that the painter is the one of the most requested artists on the market. Magritte made the painting in 1961 on commission from Baroness Anne-Marie Gillion Crowet, daughter of Pierre Crowet, a patron and collector of surrealist art. Friend of Magritte and his wife, the baroness appears in several paintings by the artist. It depicts a house in Brussels at night, lit by a lamppost, while a clear blue sky strewn with clouds seems to indicate that it is daytime.

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