René Magritte. The Portrait. Brussels, 1935

René Magritte

The Portrait

Brussels, 1935

Oil on canvas
28 7/8 x 19 7/8" (73.3 x 50.2 cm)
Gift of Kay Sage Tanguy
Object number
© 2016 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture
This work is not on view.
René Magritte has 14 works online.
There are 2,308 paintings online.

A simply laid–out meal is not as simple as it seems. Each singular object is rendered with equally sharp focus and pictorial realism, yet any expectation of everyday reality is overturned, above all by the unblinking eye that stares inexplicably from a slice of ham on a plate. The Belgian Surrealist writer Louis Scutenaire described Magritte's objects as totems, and the spare arrangement here points toward the significance of a ritual meal. The perspective of this still life tilts dramatically toward the surface of the picture plane, as if to confront or perhaps invite the viewer to join the table. After exhibiting the canvas in several international Surrealist exhibitions in the 1930s, Magritte produced a lifesize, three–dimensional version for a 1945 Surrealist display in Brussels.

Gallery label from Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938 , September 28, 2013–January 12, 2014

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
1935, René Magritte, Brussels.
1935 - 1940, E.L.T. (Edouard Léon Théodore) Mesens (1903-1971), Brussels and London (from 1938), purchased from the artist.
1940 - until at least 1949, Gordon Onslow-Ford, San Francisco Bay Area, California, purchased from Mesens.
Mrs. Yves Tanguy / Kay Sage Tanguy, Woodbury, Connecticut.
1956, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired as gift from Kay Sage Tanguy.

If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please e-mail or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

Licensing of MoMA images and videos is handled by Art Resource (North America) and Scala Archives (all other geographic locations). All requests should be addressed directly to those agencies, which supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to