Max Ernst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, October 14, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'Over the past century the significance of suns, moons, constellations, nebulae, galaxies and all of outer space beyond the terrestrial zone has increasingly entered human consciousness, as it has taken root in my own work and will very probably remain there' —Max ErnstExecuted in 1965, Maximiliana-Figur represents Max Ernst’s long-standing fascination with the cosmological which is particularly palpable in the collaborative projects he undertook with the filmmaker Peter Schamoni between 1963 and 1976. The title of the present work identifies the pigmented figure as the ‘illegal’ nineteenth-century astronomer and engraver Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel (1821-1889). Conducting his astronomical activities outside of the academy and with no formal training, Tempel was dismissed by his contemporaries despite the significant contributions he made to the study of astronomy, including the discovery of Planet No. 65 which he named ‘Maximiliana’ in honour of the King of Bavaria, Maximillian II. A century later, the name was taken up by Schamoni and Ernst as a shorthand for their mutual interest in the cosmological which, following the example of the nineteenth-century astronomer, they also pursued outside of strict disciplinary dogmas through their respective artistic practices. The significance of Tempel’s life as a focal point for the pair’s intellectual friendship is honoured by Phillips in the titling of the filmmaker’s collection offered across this season’s global auctions.

    For Ernst, Tempel’s dedicated pursuit of celestial knowledge reflected his own interest in exploring planes of existence beyond everyday human experience. The artist compared the astronomer’s ability to see the cosmos more clearly using a rudimentary telescope to his own radical positioning against the art historical traditions that preceded him. He argued that ‘[t]hroughout the centuries as the sum total of knowledge increases, people stop seeing, they stop discerning with the eyes, but painters, they go back to seeing with the eyes and they are the revolutionaries’.i With this statement, Ernst positioned himself in a lineage of revolutionary thinkers who challenged the way the world is perceived, asserting his desire to expand the boundaries of human experience through his artmaking.


    Max Ernst and Peter Schamoni with Maximiliana-Figur, photograph by Viktor Schamoni. Courtesy of the estate of Peter Schamoni.

    Mention of Maximiliana can be traced through the varied projects conducted by Ernst and Schamoni in the 1960s and 1970s, including the title of the present work and an artist’s book co-created by the pair in 1964 in collaboration with Iliazd (Ilia Mikhailovich Zdanevich, 1894-1975), the prominent publisher of modernist livre d’artistes. In 1965, Schamoni collaborated with Ernst on a short film to tell the story of Tempel’s misfortune. Titled Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausbung der Astronomie (Maximiliana and the illegal practice of astronomy), the astronomer is depicted using a spindly stick figure drawn by the artist. In the course of the film, the figure is animated and superimposed over imagery relating to Tempel’s life, including footage of Ernst proudly proclaiming the former’s genius. The figure in the present work on paper is articulated similar to the animated character: crimped arms ending in expressive hands extending from a rounded body with elongated legs. Yet, unlike the line drawing featured in the film, Maximiliana-Figur was created using the process of frottage developed by the German artist within his drawing practice. Pigmented material is passed over a piece of paper or cardboard laid atop an object to produce unexpected textural surfaces. The artist’s innovative experimentation with technique is thus brought to bear on the deep affinity he felt with Tempel’s fate.


    Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie (1966), directed by Peter Schamoni. 


    Collector's Digest


    •    This unique collection of Max Ernst works comes directly from the personal collection of renowned filmmaker Peter Schamoni. The two worked closely together on several collaborative projects, including the short 1966 film Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astromomie. 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.


    •    The collection reflects key moments in the artist’s career and personal life, encompassing a range of works in a variety of mediums from the 1920s through to the 1960s. It also highlights Ernst’s consistent interest in scientific modes of inquiry and discovery, with works borrowing ideas from the disciplines of mathematics and astronomy.


    •    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.


    •    A highly significant artist of the 20th century avant-garde, Max Ernst’s works are frequently included in definitive accounts of Dada and Surrealism, and his works are held in the most important institutional collections worldwide.

    i Max Ernst, quoted in Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie, dir. by Peter Schamoni, West Germany, 1966

    • Provenance

      Gifted by the artist to the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Kunstverein Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Villa Böhm, Abfälle vom Werk Déchets d'œuvres Max Ernst Originale und Grafik aus der Sammlung Peter Schamoni, 9 - 23 December 1978 (illustrated, n.p.)
      Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Entdeckungsfahrten zu Max Ernst / Die Sammlung Peter Schamoni, 24 February - 23 June 2013, p. 178 (illustrated, p. 137)

    • Literature

      Werner Spies, Sigrid Metken, Günter Metken and Jürgen Pech eds., Max Ernst Œuvre-Katalog. Werke 1964-1969, Cologne, 2007, no. 4109, p. 134 (illustrated)

Maximiliana: Max Ernst from the Collection of Peter Schamoni



signed with the artist's initials 'm.e.' lower right
frottage and oil crayon on cardboard
44.7 x 14.2 cm (17 5/8 x 5 5/8 in.)
Executed in 1965.

Full Cataloguing

£4,000 - 6,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £10,080

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 October 2021