Sotheby’s Paris Modernités auction on 19 October will present works by artists from the emergence of the European avant-garde to the Post-War period, showcasing the modernist movements across Europe and the overlapping dialogues within this rich artistic moment. 

The prestigious sale will bring to the market a rare painting by the master of surrealism René Magritte, capturing the visual paradox that lies at the heart of the artist’s originality. Never-before-seen at auction, La Valse hésitation depicts two masked apples shrouded in night-time shadows, against the backdrop of a bright blue sky peppered with Magritte’s characteristic clouds. The motif was conceived in the early 1950s, at the same moment as his most important series – L’Empire des Lumières – similarly seeking to capture the paradox of day meeting night. 

The painting has not been seen in public since 1979, where it was the subject of an exhibition at the prestigious Galerie Isy Brachot, and has since been treasured in three private collections in the artist’s homeland of Belgium. It is now coming to the open market for the first time, its appearance also marking the highest ever pre-sale estimate given for a single lot offered by Sotheby’s France. 

The apple is central to Magritte’s oeuvre – and the countless iterations he inspired in popular culture. Here, the apple – an intimate object familiar from the centuries-old artistic tradition of the still life and harking back to the Garden of Eden – is transformed into a mysterious, anthropomorphic character. With the addition of a simple mask, without any facial features, Magritte opens to the door to countless possibilities, at once poetic, alluring, unsettling and theatrical. 

The season will also feature auctions of Impressionist and Modern Art, as well as private selling exhibitions of Contemporary Art.