Scientfiic discovery

Magritte, a mystery finally solved


Detail of "The Enchanted Pose" with restored colors© Succession René Magritte c/o SABAM © ULiège

The 4th and final part of “The Enchanted Pose”, a catalogued work from René Magritte that had been lost since 1932, was discovered by researchers from University of Liège under another of the master's paintings at the Magritte Museum in Brussels, “God is not a Saint”. This discovery puts an end to an 80-year enigma and makes it possible to completely (although virtually) restore a very important piece illustrated by the master of Belgian
surrealism.

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temming from a close collaboration between the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (RMFAB) and the European Centre of Archaeometry of the University of Liège, the research project, “Magritte on practice”,  consists of the systematic study of the world's most extensive collection of works painted by the artist, that of the Magritte Museum in Brussels, via a whole arsenal of non-invasive physicochemical analysis and scientific imaging.

Beginning in 2016, this major project aims to shed new light on the painted works of René Magritte (1898-1967) through the prism of its materiality. Thanks to the portability of instruments available to the CEA, all examinations and analyses are performed on the premises within a room of the museum made available to scientists.

Beyond an in-depth knowledge of the development process and of the constituent materials of a body of work covering the entirety of the artist's career (42 oil paintings and 21 gouaches done between 1921 and 1963), it is a question of better understanding Magritte the practitioner, of discovering unknown or lost early works, and of resolving the causes of atypical alterations of the pictorial layer that consistently affect the early work of the painter.

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MAGRITTE: The Mystery of "The Enchanted Pose" is finally solved!

A mystery finally solved: the fourth and last part of Magritte's art work "The Enchanted Pose" discovered by researchers from the University of Liège under the painting "God is not a Saint" in the Magritte Museum!

Four elements in four museums throughout the world

This painting, which was lost but nevertheless listed in the artist's ‘catalogue raisonné’, resurfaced for the first time in 2013 when the X-ray radiography of a completely different painting of the hand of the Belgian surrealist, “The Portrait”, done in 1935 and conserved at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York), led to the discovery of the upper-left part of “The Enchanted Pose”, under the layers of paint of the current composition.

MAGRITTE © 2017 Succession René Magritte-SABAM ULiège

a) René Magritte, The Portrait, 1935, oil on canvas, 73.3 x 50.2 cm, MoMA, New York,
b) René Magritte, Go dis not a Saint, 1935-36, oil on canvas, 67,2 x 43 cm, RMFAB, Brussels,
c) René Magritte, The Red Model, 1935, oil on canvas, 72 x 48,5 cm, Moderna Museet, Stockholm,
d) René Magritte, The Human Condition, oil on canvas, 54.2 Å~ 73.2, Norwich Castle, UK
© 2017, Succession René Magritte c/o SABAMa legende

Amidst this, “The Red Model”, also painted by Magritte in 1935, conserved for its part in the Moderna Museet (Stockholm), was identified as the painting concealing the lower-left part of the lost composition. It was not until 2016 that a third piece of “The Enchanted Pose”, corresponding to the lower-right part, was located in Norwich Castle Museum. This time, it was under coats of paint from “The Human Condition”, a work also dating back to 1935.

Since then, several curators of collections and scientists specialising in the study of artistic patrimony combined their efforts to unveil the last piece of the mystery surrounding “The Enchanted Pose”. Additionally, their efforts are to discover which painting in the world concealed the missing puzzle piece.

The initiators of the “Magritte on Practice” project have now put an end to this enigma. Indeed, the radiographic examination from mid-October of a painting from the Magritte Museum collection allowed for the discovery of the upper-right part of “The Enchanted Pose”, which was until now untraceable. This time, it was “God is not a Saint”, a painting done between 1935 and 1936, originating from the donation by Madam Irène Scutenaire-Hamoir in 1996. The work in question can currently be found on the walls of the Magritte Museum.

MAGRITTE Pose enchantee © 2017 Succession René Magritte-SABAM ULiège

René Magritte, La pose enchantée, huile sur toile, 1927 [reconstitution with the 4 works discovered]
© 2017, Succession René Magritte c/o SABAM © ULiège

By considering René Magritte’s habit of recycling the frame from his own paintings, and given the number of his works whose locations remain unknown, it is reasonable to anticipate shortly the discovery other compositions or fragments having been subject to reuse.

Without the financial support of the Gallery Le Centaure, and left in a precarious financial position, Magritte decided to cut this large canvas which he probably considered unsatisfactory, into pieces in order to create four major works of which the painting God is not a Saint was the missing link.

With this discovery, research made some progress. Both regarding the context in which Magritte worked in the early 1930s and the material understanding of his works. It allowed us to penetrate further into the workings of his work, in particular by breaking down the chronology which reflected the remarkable creativity of the painter at the time.”

Michel DRAGUET, General Director of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

“If we have the opportunity to continue this research, it is reasonable to expect that more of Magritte's missing paintings will surface.”

Francisca VANDEPITTE, Curator, Modern Art Department of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

“This discovery demonstrates, once again, the considerable contribution of scientific analysis and imaging methods to the knowledge of a painter and his work.”

“The challenges of this vast research project are multiple. Beyond the possibility of finding missing works of youth, it is also a question of apprehending the work of Magritte by the prism of its materiality. This is to identify more closely the creative process of the painter but also the origin of the atypical alterations that share several important paintings exhibited at the Magritte Museum.”

Catherine DEFEYT, Researcher at University of Liège, European Centre for Archaeometry

“Recent developments in analysis and imaging techniques now make it possible to carry out this research in a completely non-invasive way without having to move the works.”

“Our research is at the crossroads of art history, science and conservation and allows a new vision and understanding of our cultural heritage.”

David STRIVAY, Lecturer at University of Liège, European Centre for Archaeometry

 

More about the archeometry at the universityof liège


 

Partners of the “Magritte on Practice” project

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (RMFAB):

Francisca VANDEPITE, Michel DRAGUET

European Centre of Archaeometry, Interfaculty Research Unit on Art, Archaeology, Patrimony, Université de Liège

Catherine DEFEYT, Elodie HERENS, David STRIVAY

Press contacts

Samir AL-HADDAD | Press Officer RMFAB

T + 32 2 508 34 08 | M + 32 472 50 00 14 I samir.al-haddad@fine-arts-museum.be

Didier MOREAU | Press Officer University of Liège

T +32 4 366 52 17 | M +32 494 572 530 I dmoreau@uliege.be

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