Art historians have toiled over the mystery of a missing Rene Magritte painting for years, with many assuming his work, "The Enchanted Pose," had been lost or destroyed. Yet a recent discovery at the Museum of Modern Art may have proved that the elusive artwork has been hiding in plain sight this entire time.
Yes, apparently the surrealist trickster par excellence can pull a fast one even from beyond the grave.
"The Enchanted Pose," by Rene Magritte. Image courtesy MoMA.
According to The Guardian, X-rays and other imaging techniques revealed that the mysterious nude masterpiece has been hiding beneath the paint of at least two other Magritte pieces, meaning the original canvas -- which dates back to 1927 -- was cut up and brushed over years after it was completed. The breakthrough occurred during research for MoMA's current exhibition "The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938" -- a more apt title than MoMA curators originally expected, it seems.
So far researchers have surmised that the "missing" nude painting was chopped up and divided into four parts, two of which have since been uncovered. The head and torso of the nudes were found beneath "The Portrait of 1935," a painting of an eye on a slice of prosciutto. The nudes' feet were recovered under "The Red Model of 1935," which depicted -- you guessed it -- a pair of feet. The other two slices of the artwork have yet to be located, although they're assumed to be lurking behind two more unexamined Magritte works.
"It's very exciting," Anne Umland, a MoMA curator, told The Guardian. "Here is this Magritte that's been believed to be missing, that was clearly a large and important work for him at one point in time."
Why exactly Magritte would dissect and reappropriate a critically acclaimed work such as "Enchanted Pose" remains unknown. Magritte possibly was trying to separate himself from his early style, undergoing an artistic transformation after "The Treachery of Images."
"He's at a very different place in his career in 1935 from 1927," Umland explained to Art in America. "One can hypothesize that he had moved on. Was 'The Enchanted Pose' too Picasso-like? Was he no longer interested in strategies of doubling? Or perhaps the condition of the painting had been compromised."
Somehow it doesn't surprise us that the Belgian surrealist would act according to a logic that eludes the rest of us. In his review of "The Mystery of the Ordinary," Holland Cotter remarked: "[Magritte] was an attention-grabber with one gift, but a crucial one: for puzzle-making. You may not get, at first glance, what’s going on in his paintings, but you get that there’s something to get. So you look again. And again."
Well played, Magritte. Well played. Enjoy some little-known sheet music covers designed by Magritte in the slideshow below.