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Lot #112  –  91st Auction Day by KODL Gallery  (5/26/2024)


Va et vient

oil on canvas
signed lower right
38 × 46 cm
Estimate: 10,000,000 CZK - 15,000,000 CZK
Starting price: 7,000,000 CZK
Hammer price:
19,000,000 CZKEUR

This newly discovered work of extraordinary collectible value by one of the most famous Czech painters of the 20th century, Toyen, is among the most remarkable canvases from her Paris surrealist period. She moved to Paris in 1947, and France became her new home. Together with her friends from the surrealist group, which included André Breton, Benjamin Péret and Jindřich Heisler, she got involved in the group’s activities, becoming one of its most ardent members. After her first series of drawings with the subject matter of the elements, executed under the influence of Breton’s interest in esotericism and occultism, she executed a cycle of works on old Prague house signs. At the beginning of the fifties, she began to deal with the motif of an open box containing unexpected contents. This motif appeared for the first time in the painting Intertwining of the Full and Empty from 1952, published in the artist’s monograph (K. Srp: Toyen, Prague 2000, p. 209, fig. 281). The left half of the box is filled with a mysterious red drapery; the right part contains two birds’ beaks intertwined similarly, as in the drawings from the series Neither Wings Nor Stones: Wings and Stones (1949).

The painting with the ambiguous French title Va et vient, which could be translated into English as Leaving and Coming, depicts the continuous movement of sea waves of high and low tides. It is a mysterious revelation of a surrealist vision of the world and its ordinary objects. From the small chest, resembling an open jewellery box or a travel suitcase, a blue-white tidal wave rises dramatically as if it wanted to engulf the bottom of the box stuffed with seafish. Their greenish eyes shine against the dark blue background. The illusion of a stormy sea enclosed in a magical chest is humorously in contradiction with the background, where a golden ring hangs on a string as yet another piece of treasure waiting to be discovered. Va et vient depicts the wildness of nature subdued by human presence and suggestively opens the door to a new “surreality”. The value of this painting enhances its origin from a family collection in France, into which it was purchased immediately after execution directly from the artist and has remained in the family’s possession to this day. It is presented in the original framing. Assessed during consultations by PhDr. R. Michalová, Ph.D., and prof. J. Zemina. The expertise of PhDr. K. Srp is attached.

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