Magritte’s lost 1927 painting virtually reconstructed using sole recovered section
Image credit: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
A lost Rene Magritte painting from 1927, ‘La Pose Enchantée’ (‘The Enchanted Pose’), has been virtually restored using a recovered quarter of the original piece.
The oil painting was cut into four pieces and reused by the artist in 1935 to paint four new smaller paintings and the only evidence of the original piece was a black and white photo taken for an art catalogue.
In 2013, during a Magritte exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, an examination of the 1935 piece ‘Portrait’ revealed blue and ochre hues on the edges of the canvas that did not correspond to any of the objects represented.
Further analysis in an infrared spectro-imager revealed part of ‘La Pose Enchantée’ underneath, identified from the black and white photo.
This sparked a worldwide hunt to find the other three-quarters of the painting, which eventually ended last year when the final quarter of the painting was found underneath ‘Dieu n’est pas un Saint’ (God is not a Saint).
Now researchers at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and the University of Liège have used techniques including high-resolution photography under visible and ultra-violet light to analyse the paint used in the discovered quarter and suggest how the painting may have looked as a whole.
Corresponding author Dr. Catherine Defeyt said: “Imaging and analysis of the painting provided lots of information about the hidden picture, especially in regards to the palette used.
“For example, the deepest blue layer, visible under the microscope and appearing lighter and greener than the upper ones, is presumed to be a tiny part of the sky from ‘La Pose Enchantée’. Analysis and observations such as this allowed us to propose a virtual colourisation of the painting.”
The in-depth study conducted on the double picture included a variety of techniques. The authors first photographed full-size images of ‘Dieu n’est pas un Saint’ under visible and UV light to carefully study its appearance and look for evidence of ‘La Pose Enchantée’.
Next, they used X-ray radiography imaging, which reveals the different layers of a painting, to view the picture underneath. In order to get a better understanding of the paint used by Magritte, the researchers utilised X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to look at each area of the painting in turn and analyse the pigments in that area to get a better idea of the colors used.
Defeyt said: “The precarious financial situation that Magritte was in between 1920 and 1935 led him to regularly reuse canvases from former paintings, so it is not surprising to find ‘La Pose Enchantée’ beneath another painting - especially as the other three quarters were found in similar situations.
“The double painting provides a challenge for those examining the picture and various scientific imaging and analytical techniques were required to assess the materials and techniques used.”