René Magritte masterpiece achieves $9.9M at Bonhams New York
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René Magritte masterpiece achieves $9.9M at Bonhams New York
René Magritte (1898 – 1967), Torse nu dans les nuages. Oil on canvas, signed ‘Magritte’ (lower left), 28 1⁄2 x 24 in (71.4 x 61 cm). Painted circa 1937. Sold for $9,978,312.

NEW YORK, NY.- René Magritte’s Torse nu dans les nuages (circa. 1937) achieved $9,978,312 at Bonhams white glove sale of The Collection of Amalia de Schulthess today (Tuesday, December 7), in New York. The work, which had remained unseen for the last 70 years – and had never before been offered at auction – had a pre-sale estimate of $6,000,000 - 9,000,000.

Combining the classical and the deeply surreal, Torse nu dans les nuages included two of René Magritte’s signature motifs: clouds and a female torso. The work dates from circa 1937, during the height of the Surrealist movement. It came to Bonhams from the distinguished private collection of Amalia de Schulthess (1918-2021) and led the dedicated single-owner sale of selected works from her impressive collection. Torse nu dans les nuages was notably included in the 1948 Magritte exhibition at the Copley Galleries in Los Angeles.

The 13-lot white glove sale made a total of $15,218,808 with 100% sold by lot and 100% sold by value.

Molly Ott Ambler, Head of Fine Art, Americas, said: “We are delighted with the results of today’s sale, and especially to have achieved such an impressive price for René Magritte’s masterpiece Torse nu dans les nuages. This was a signature work by the artist, and was a highly significant painting within oeuvre, exemplary of his first Surrealist phase. The work also had exceptional provenance, being one of the truly show-stopping pieces for the incredible collection of Amalia de Schulthess.”

Bruno Vinciguerra, Global CEO of Bonhams, said, “Bonhams is thrilled to have achieved such a fantastic result for this exquisite work by René Magritte. This was the first time the Surrealist masterpiece Torse nu dans les nuages had been offered at auction, and we have once again shown our strength in achieving impressive results for major works of this era. We were also exceptionally pleased – but not surprised - by Giacometti’s sublime bronze achieving such an astounding result. It is truly a great work.”

Other highlights of the sale included:

• Figurine entre deux maisons by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), which sold for $4,950,312 against a pre-sale estimate of $1,200,000-1,400,000.
• Cheval de Trait by Edgar Degas (1834-1917). Sold for $112,812.
• Jeune Femme Allongée, a drawing by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966). Sold for $62,812.
• Untitled (Totem), François Stahly (1911-2006). Sold for $40,312.

Amalia de Schulthess, the Collector

Torse nu dans les nuages (1937) by René Magritte hailed from the private collection of Amalia de Schulthess (1918, Oberaarch, Switzerland – 2021, Santa Monica, California).

Amalia de Schulthess grew up in Thurgau, Switzerland and studied at the State College Trogen, Appenzell Ausserrhoden and the Kunstgewerbeschule, Zurich. She came from a family of dedicated art collectors and patrons. Indeed, her father was closely acquainted with Paul Klee, and the artist paid frequent visits to their home. Klee was a key source of inspiration to Amalia; he encouraged her to express herself and commit to the pursuit of creating original artworks.

In 1941, Amalia emigrated to the United States to marry her fiancé, Hans de Schulthess (1918, Zurich, Switzerland – 1962, Vienna, Austria), who was born to a wealthy banking family. Amalia met Hans while studying in Trogen. Their parents did not approve of the match, and it was Amalia who suggested the bold move to America. The couple was first based in New York and then ultimately settled in Beverly Hills.

While in New York (1941-1943), Amalia renewed her friendship with the Piet Mondrian and became his patron. She continued to make her own art, and this connection would prove to be as influential to her artistic trajectory as her early contact with Klee. Hans was also deeply involved in the arts as a patron and collector, and gifted numerous works to the prestigious Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) during his lifetime. Tragically, he died in an automobile accident at the age of 44. By this time, Amalia and Hans had divorced but were still close friends.

Amalia and Hans both devoted their lives to supporting artists and arts institutions, as well as building a formidable collection. In parallel, Amalia concentrated on developing her own artistic practice. For most of her adult life, she created her art in California and New Mexico.

Solo shows of Amalia’s work were held at the Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe (1956); the Esther Robles Gallery, Los Angeles (1956 and 1962); the Rose Rabow Gallery, San Francisco (1960); and the David Cole Gallery, San Francisco (1962). After the 1960s, Amalia turned her attention from painting to making sculpture, and worked in Florence for a decade.

Amalia was represented by the Esther Robles Gallery, and it appears that her connection to this space as an artist was complemented by her role as a collector. She acquired Torse nu dans les nuages by René Magritte from the dealer Esther Robles. The duality of Amalia’s position in the art world is perfectly encapsulated in this event.

Amalia de Schulthess died on May 28, 2021, in Santa Monica, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy.

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