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Record-breaking $27 million Magritte masterpiece shines at Sotheby's New York
Surrealist portrait of patron Edward James Le Principe du Plaisir (Pleasure Principle) achieves $26.8 Million. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Painted in 1937, René Magritte’s Le Principe du plaisir (The Pleasure Principle) is an entrancing portrait depicting Edward James, one of the most influential patrons of Surrealist art, who was introduced to Magritte by Salvador Dalí in 1937. Commissioned directly by James, the present portrait was rendered from a photograph of the patron that was taken according to the artist’s specifications by fellow Surrealist, Man Ray. Magritte envisioned the concept for the present work before ever meeting James – in 1936, the artist included an ink sketch resembling the oil on the first page of a hand-made book honoring the Surrealist poet, Paul Éluard.

Oskar Kokoschka’s Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac, 1910
Estimate $15/20 millionstolen

A masterpiece from the pinnacle of Kokoschka’s early portraiture, Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac is a harbinger of Expressionism and a token of the seismic shift that was occurring in the visual arts at this time, which would only be shaken by the complete destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I. The present work was painted during Kokoschka’s visit to the Mont Blanc sanatorium in Leysin in the Swiss Alps where he met the subject, a patient who would go on to become the Duke of Fezensac in 1913. Kokoschka’s portraiture at this time broke convention in almost every aspect, with his primary aim to bring the invisible inside of a person – what he would come to call his “soul paintings” – to the surface. The artist’s treatment of medium in Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac is one of the most refined and unusual of his oeuvre.

Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac is known to have been with Alfred Flechtheim by 1927. It was sold by Alex Vömel – a member of the Nazi party who took over Flechtheim’s Düsseldorf Gallery – to the National Museum of Fine Arts in Stockholm in 1934. In the 1950s, the work was transferred to the Moderna Museet, where it remained until it was returned to Flechtheim’s heirs earlier this year. As in the past, the Flechtheim heirs are expecting to use some of the proceeds for charitable causes, and for Holocaust remembrance and education purposes.

Ludwig Meidner’s Apokalyptische Landschaft (Apocalyptic Landscape), 1912
Estimate $12/18 millionstolen

Executed in 1912 near the brink of the Great War, Apokalyptische Landschaft is a cataclysmic and arresting urban scene that reflects the social, political, emotional and artistic upheaval in Germany at the time. With his tremendous visionary powers, Meidner anticipates the destruction of Europe and the recurrent conflict that was to blemish the future course of the 20th century.

The harrowing dual-sided image is one of approximately 15 paintings from Meidner’s series of apocalyptic landscapes executed between 1912 and 1916. Strikingly modern, the works from this series show Meidner looking at the formal experiments of both the German Expressionists and the Italian Futurists and act as a testimony to the incredible artistic innovation of this period. There are very few works from the series remaining in private hands, with important examples in international institutions including the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin, the Saint Louis Art Museum in Missouri and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

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