Mystery of lost Magritte painting is finally solved!

Published on 14.11.2017

A mystery finally solved: the fourth and last part of Magritte's art work "The Enchanted Pose" discovered by researchers from the University of Liège under the painting "God is not a Saint"!
The scoop was revealed on the press conference held at the Musée Magritte Museum in Brussels, this Tuesday 14 Nov.


The 4th and final part of “The Enchanted Pose”, a catalogued work from René Magritte that had been lost since 1932, was discovered by researchers from University of Liège under another of the master's paintings at the Musée Magritte Museum in Brussels, “God is not a Saint”. This discovery puts an end to an 80-year enigma and makes it possible to completely (although virtually) restore a very important piece illustrated by the master of Belgian surrealism.

Stemming from a close collaboration between the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (RMFAB) and the European Centre of Archaeometry of the University of Liège, the research project, “Magritte on practice”, consists of the systematic study of the world's most extensive collection of works painted by the artist, that of the Musée Magritte Museum in Brussels, via a whole arsenal of non-invasive physicochemical analysis and scientific imaging. 

Beginning in 2016, this major project aims to shed new light on the painted works of René Magritte (1898-1967) through the prism of its materiality. Thanks to the portability of instruments available to the CEA, all examinations and analyses are performed on the premises within a room of the museum made available to scientists.

Beyond an in-depth knowledge of the development process and of the constituent materials of a body of work covering the entirety of the artist's career (42 oil paintings and 21 gouaches done between 1921 and 1963), it is a question of better understanding Magritte the practitioner, of discovering unknown or lost early works, and of resolving the causes of atypical alterations of the pictorial layer that consistently affect the early work of the painter.

Four elements in four museums throughout the world

This painting, which was lost but nevertheless listed in the artist's ‘catalogue raisonné’, resurfaced for the first time in 2013 when the X-ray radiography of a completely different painting of the hand of the Belgian surrealist, “The Portrait”, done in 1935 and conserved at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York), led to the discovery of the upper-left part of “The Enchanted Pose”, under the layers of paint of the current composition. 

Amidst this, “The Red Model”, also painted by Magritte in 1935, conserved for its part in the Moderna Museet (Stockholm), was identified as the painting concealing the lower-left part of the lost composition. It was not until 2016 that a third piece of “The Enchanted Pose”, corresponding to the lower-right part, was located in Norwich Castle Museum. This time, it was under coats of paint from “The Human Condition”, a work also dating back to 1935. 

Since then, several curators of collections and scientists specialising in the study of artistic patrimony combined their efforts to unveil the last piece of the mystery surrounding “The Enchanted Pose”. Additionally, their efforts are to discover which painting in the world concealed the missing puzzle piece.

The initiators of the “Magritte on Practice” project have now put an end to this enigma. Indeed, the radiographic examination from mid-October of a painting from the Musée Magritte Museum collection allowed for the discovery of the upper-right part of “The Enchanted Pose”, which was until now untraceable. This time, it was “God is not a Saint”, a painting done between 1935 and 1936, originating from the donation by Madam Irène Scutenaire-Hamoir in 1996. The work in question can currently be found on the walls of the Musée Magritte Museum.

By considering René Magritte’s habit of recycling the frame from his own paintings, and given the number of his works whose locations remain unknown, it is reasonable to anticipate shortly the discovery other compositions or fragments having been subject to reuse.


Watch the video


Read the article from the University of Liège

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