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Magritte painting ‘The Intimate Friend’ sells at auction for €39m

15:19 08/03/2024

An exquisite painting by Belgian Surrealist Rene Magritte, L'ami intime (The Intimate Friend), has sold for €39m at Christies in London.

Estimated at between €35m and €58m, the hammer finally came down at £33,660,000 (around €39.4m). The sale of the coveted painting, measuring 35.5 x 26cm, was a highlight of the auction house’s The Art of The Surreal evening sale.

The 1958 masterpiece (pictured below) is one of a series of dreamlike paintings of an enigmatic bowler-hatted everyman figure. Looking out of a window onto a mountain landscape and cloud-filled sky, he appears impervious to the incongruous baguette and glass of wine floating in the air behind him.


Originating from the collection of the late US financial publisher Gilbert Kaplan and his wife Lena, the highly-acclaimed work was last publicly shown at Bozar in Brussels in 1998.

“It’s one of the most powerful and impressive of only a few of these iconic images left in private hands, a tour de force of the artist's hyper-realistic technique,” explained Olivier Camu, deputy chairman for Impressionist and Modern art at Christie’s, London.

“It’s extremely poetic, silent and mysterious, especially given the unknown identity of the sitter together with its evocative title,” he added.

Two other Magritte’s achieved similar strong prices: Le principe d'Archimède (£1,492,000) and La magie noire (£4,638,000). In total, some seven works by the 20th century artist were offered, of which five sold for over £1million.

New auction records were set for two female Surrealist artists with Hannah Höch’s 1920 collage Das schöne Mädchen (£453,600) and Meret Oppenheim’s iconic and rare Surrealist object, Tisch mit Vogelfüssen (£529,200). 

Work by the German-born Swiss artist and photographer and other Surrealist artists is currently on show at two major exhibitions in Brussels marking the 100th anniversary of the visionary avant-garde movement:  Imagine! 100 Years of International Surrealism at the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels and Histoire de ne pas rire. Surrealism in Belgium at Bozar. 

Photos: Adrien Meyer, co-chairman, Impressionist & Modern Art, selling René Magritte’s L'ami intime; René Magritte, L'ami intime, 1958 ©Christie's


Written by Sarah Crew