A painting by René Magritte that has been in the collection of one of the Belgian artist’s longtime muses and patrons for 60 years will be sold at auction. Set to hit the block at Sotheby’s during a London evening sale on March 2, the painting is secured with a guarantee and is estimated to fetch more than £45 million ($60 million).
The sale is poised to set a new benchmark for the Surrealist painter, whose prices have risen in recent years. It is set to surpass Magritte’s current auction record of $26.8 million, paid for the artist’s Le Principe du Plaisir (1937) at Sotheby’s in 2018.
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L’empire des lumières (1961), the painting headed to auction this March, features a composition that the artist used frequently during the 1950s and ’60s. The scene depicts a darkly lit exterior view of a suburban residential house reminiscent of the those seen in Brussels, the city where Magritte was based. Though the house is lit from within and a streetlamp illuminates a darkened street before the structure, a blue sky with clouds hangs overhead.
Magritte produced the work for Anne-Marie Crowet Gillon, a French baroness and the daughter of one of his key patrons, the lawyer Pierre Crowet. Gillon, who met the artist at the age of 16, went on to pose for several of Magritte’s works, later appearing in his 1950 painting The Ignorant Fairy.
Helena Newman, Sotheby’s European chairman and worldwide head of Impressionist and modern art, described the painting as one of the “definitive images of Surrealist art” in a statement. It has been on loan at the Musée Magritte in Brussels since 2009.
Other paintings featuring the same subject matter went to collectors like Nelson Rockefeller and Peggy Guggenheim. Similar works are now owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Menil Collection in Houston, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.
The painting will go on view to the public at Sotheby’s Los Angeles outpost this month and will travel to New York and Hong Kong before reaching its final destination at the house’s London headquarters, where it will be sold.