This past February, conservator Alice Tavares da Silva took René Magritte’s La Condition humaine (1935) out of its frame for a routine inspection. She expected just that: routine. The painting, in the collection of Britain’s Norfolk Museums Service (NMS), was slated to travel to the Pompidou for a Magritte exhibition opening in September of this year. As a matter of procedure, artworks are regularly examined before such loans—a task that, in this case, fell to da Silva.
After freeing the oil painting from its frame, she noticed the canvas around the stretcher had been painted in colors that didn’t match the overall composition—odd, especially for Magritte. She quickly realized there was something under the surface. A subsequent X-ray revealed that “something” to be a fragment of another painting: La Pose enchantée (1927), which had been missing since 1932. Magritte, it turns out, had cut it up and painted over it.
Originally a large painting of two female nudes, the full La Pose can be seen in a black-and-white photograph illustrating its entry in Magritte’s 1992 catalogue raisonné. “Whereabouts unknown,” the entry says. “Probably destroyed.”