Max Ernst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, November 17, 2021 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.


    Max Ernst and Kachina, photographed by Dorothea Tanning. Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris / DACS, London

    Max Ernst and Kachina, photographed by Dorothea Tanning. Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris / DACS, London



    Picturing a windswept dog exuding confidence and majesty, Max Ernst’s Kachina is a lovingly painted portrait of one of Ernst’s closest companions: his dog. Ernst named Kachina after the Hopi kachina dolls he collected, situating the present work not only as a touching homage to the artist’s Pekingese but also amidst his belief in the power of myth and longstanding interest in Hopi sculpture. Here, the artist renders Kachina more as a lioness in his manipulation of scale, presenting the dog in an uncanny landscape devoid of detail.



    "If Richard Wagner had seen this, his music would be even louder than it is.”
    —Max Ernst on the sublime Southwestern landscape


    Kachina’s name refers to the powerful spiritual deities of the Pueblo Villages of the American Southwest. Revered especially by the Hopi tribe, who occupied terrain close to the homestead Ernst and Dorothea Tanning made in 1946, a kachina can resemble anything in the natural world or cosmos, including animals, objects, structures, and elements. The Hopi believed that the immortal kachinas acted as messengers between the human and spirit worlds and could be implored, through ritualistic dance and the ceremonial giving of carved dolls, to bring about the harvest rains. The colorful cottonwood dolls were typically presented to young girls or new brides to instruct them in the societal expectations and elemental forces of the world in which they lived.





    Dorothea Tanning, Valse bleue (The Blue Waltz), 1954. Private Collection

    Dorothea Tanning, Valse bleue (The Blue Waltz), 1954. Private Collection, Artwork: © ADAGP, Paris / DACS, London




    Ernst first encountered Hopi culture and the kachinas on a trip to the West with Peggy Guggenheim, with whom the artist lived in New York at the time. Knowing that Ernst’s former partner Leonora Carrington also lived in New York, Guggenheim swept Ernst away to California, where they lived a life of luxury and pleasure. Guggenheim, however, concluded that California was unprepared to receive the Surrealist art that she so championed, and the couple returned to New York. On the drive back across the country, the pair routed through Arizona, where Ernst discovered the Southwest and its sublime, spartan landscapes. He felt that the region contained the striking and unusual imagery he had invented in his painting using his decalcomania technique. In Arizona, Ernst also encountered the extraordinary mysticism of the Hopi culture. On this first trip west in the early 1940s, Ernst was so taken with the Hopi Kachina dolls that he purchased the entire stock of the Grand Canyon Trading Post and brought the figures back with him to New York.i




    René Magritte, The Civilizer, 1946. Image: Banque d'Images, ADAGP / Art Resource, NY

    René Magritte, The Civilizer, 1946. Image: Banque d'Images, ADAGP / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 C. Herscovici, Brussels / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York




    Ernst’s kachina figures eventually gave way to Kachina, the dog. Despite the work’s title, Kachina technically belonged to Ernst. Guggenheim adored the dog deeply and considered requesting joint custody of Kachina in their divorce—but ultimately, she magnanimously allowed Ernst to keep the dog, under the condition that she could adopt two of Kachina’s puppies. Later, Ernst brought Kachina with him upon moving in with Dorothea Tanning into her New York apartment. Traveling with the couple to Arizona and France, Kachina became part of the family after their marriage and became a dear subject of many of Tanning’s works. In the present composition, Ernst pictures his dog in the de Chiriquesque landscape; framed by gently sloping red surfaces and a ramshackle wooden wall, the environment evokes the isolation and self-reliance of the homestead Ernst built by hand in the Sedona desert. The inscrutable face of this small dog stares out from the canvas as Kachina; totemic like the Hopi figures, Kachina assumes a mythic posture and alludes to the mysterious power of the spiritual world.



    Maximiliana: Max Ernst from the Collection of Peter Schamoni


    This special collection of Max Ernst works offered across Phillips Fall Sale Season comes directly from the personal collection of the renowned filmmaker Peter Schamoni. Encompassing a range of works in a variety of mediums from the 1920s through to the 1960s, the collection reflects key moments in the artist’s career and personal life, highlighting Ernst’s consistent interest in scientific modes of inquiry and discovery, especially in mathematics and astronomy.  Ernst and Schamoni worked closely together on several collaborative projects, including the short 1966 film Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie (Maximiliana and the Illegal Practice of Astronomy) on which the collection title is based. Representing the depth of their personal and professional relationship, the collection also includes works that were made especially for these film projects and were gifted directly to Schamoni by Ernst. Exhibited extensively and previously on long-term loan to the Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, the works were also included in the internationally renowned 2013 exhibition Entdeckungsfahrten zu Max Ernst Die Sammlung Peter Schamoni.



    i Samantha Kavky, “Max Ernst in Arizona: Myth, Mimesis and the Hysterical Landscape,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, vol. 57–58, Spring–Autumn 2010, p. 210.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Drouant-David, Paris
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in the 1950s)
      Private Collection, England (by descent from the above)
      Christie's, London, February 7, 2007, lot 394
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Munster, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Max Ernst lässt grüssen: Peter Schamoni begegnet Max Ernst, September 27, 2009 - January 10, 2010, p. 91 (illustrated; illustrated on the front cover)
      Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Entdeckungsfahrten zu Max Ernst / Die Sammlung Peter Schamoni, February 24 – June 23, 2013, pp. 78, 176 (illustrated, p. 79)

Maximiliana: Max Ernst from the Collection of Peter Schamoni


Kachina, le chien de Peggy Guggenheim

signed "max ernst" center left
oil on canvas
18 1/8 x 21 5/8 in. (46 x 54.9 cm)
Painted circa 1942.

Dr. Jürgen Pech has confirmed the authenticity of this work, which will be included in the supplementary volume of the complete work of Max Ernst now in preparation, edited by Prof. Dr. Werner Spies in collaboration with Dr. Jürgen Pech and Dr. Sigrid Metken.

Full Cataloguing

$280,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $277,200

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021