Max Ernst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 15, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Maximiliana


    The title for this special collection of Max Ernst works offered across Phillips Fall Sale Season is taken from a short 1966 film collaboration between Peter Schamoni and Ernst, Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astromomie (Maximiliana and the illegal practice of astronomy). The film and the 1964 book collaboration between Ernst and the poet-publisher Iliazad on which it was based takes as its subject the German amateur astronomer and lithographer Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel (1821 – 1889), whose discoveries were not properly recorded because his practice as an amateur was deemed to be ‘illegal’. Suffering persecution and humiliation, Tempel nevertheless discovered an asteroid which he named ‘Maximiliana’, a symbol around which Ernst and Schamoni would orient their deep friendship and many collaborations together.



    'Whenever I reach an impasse in my painting, which happens time and time again, sculpture always offers me a way out, for sculpture is more of a game than painting. In sculpture, as in love-making, both hands play a part.'
    —Max Ernst to Peter Schamoni 

    Maria and Peter Schamoni with Max Ernst’s Teaching Staff from a School of Murders, Saint-Paul-de-Vance, 1969. Courtesy of the Schamoni Estate.

    Gifted to filmmaker Peter Schamoni by the artist in recognition of their deep friendship and collaborative film projects, Homme combines several of Ernst's key motifs and occupies an especially symbolic place in Schamoni’s collection. 


    Sculpture remained a constant and experimental presence in Ernst’s varied practice, and his letters to Schamoni evidence their lively discussion on the subject. Although advocating a playful, inquisitive approach to form, and often framing his sculptural practice as a refreshing diversion from the rigorous intellectual demands of painting, Ernst was absolutely committed to its possibilities, and made a profound contribution to 20th century sculptural history. Ernst used sculpture to mediate his relationship to the world around him and the relationships he forged within it often reimagining, his characters into chess pieces, surreal, totem-guardians of the various homes he built over the years.


    Ernst, Schamoni and the Oberhausen Film Festival 


    At the behest of Schamoni, Ernst agreed to provide an award for the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen Grand Prize. Originally cast in silver in 1960, Homme was selected by Ernst to serve as the model for the award, casting five bronzes in 1965. Going first to Polish filmmaker Jan Lenica, the prize was last awarded in 1969 and Ernst later left his copy of Homme to Peter Schamoni, with the final copy gifted to Schloss Oberhausen by Hilmar Hoffmann.  


    Peter Schamoni in his study in Munich with Ernst’s Homme, 1971. Courtesy of the estate of Peter Schamoni

    Conceived at the same time as something of a companion piece to Homme, La Tournagelle was also employed as a trophy for the Journées internationales du film de court métrage de Tours between 1960 and 1962, with film director Roman Polanski as one of its recipients. 


    Max Ernst, La Tournagelle, 1960, Kunstsammlung Nordhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany © 2021. Photo Scala, Florence/bpk, Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021

    Although a sensitivity to sculptural form is evident in Ernst’s works from his earliest Dada assemblages and mixed-media works, 1960 saw a significant focus on sculpture for Ernst. On the occasion of his large 1959 retrospective at the Musée d'art moderne in Paris he dedicated a section to his sculpture for the first time. This coincided with a wave international interest in this previously overlooked aspect of his practice.


    Bird Totems

    'Birds become men and men become birds. Catastrophes become hilarious.' —Max Ernst 

    While animal and vegetal motifs were increasingly pronounced in Ernst’s post-war work, the dominant figure in the artist’s ‘gallery of demons’ is the bird, ‘head often upreared against the sky, greedy beak open like a pair of gaping scissors’.i Cryptic, powerful figures that loom large in Ernst’s personal mythology, his own avian avatar ‘Loplop, Superior of Birds’ had been a constant, shamanic presence in his work from 1930 onwards. 

    Bearing significant resemblance to his Bird Head from 1935, and thus to the ‘Loplop presents’ series of the 1930s to which Matin et soir also belongs, Homme captures the same sense of dynamic transformation and exchange between bird and human forms. A symbol of freedom, of intellectual curiosity and biomorphic hybridity, Schamoni and Ernst could not have selected a better object with which to celebrate the transformative power of cinema, and of their own, fruitful collaborations.


    James Thrall Solby, Max Ernst, surrounded by 'kachina' dolls on the terrace OF Peggy Guggenheim’s Manhattan House, c. 1942, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA © 2021. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence

    Max Ernst Among the Stars:  Astrophysicist Ravit Helled examines 20th century breakthroughs in planetary science alongside contemporary works by Max Ernst.


    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 A.W.Rossabi, in David Larkin, Max Ernst, 1975, New York, n.p.  

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Münster, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Max Ernst läßt grüßen: Peter Schamoni begegnet Max Ernst, 27 September 2009 - 10 January 2010, p. 115 (illustrated)
      Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Entdeckungsfahrten zu Max Ernst / Die Sammlung Peter Schamoni, 24 February - 23 June 2013, pp. 30, 156, 177 (illustrated, pp. 30, 157)

    • Literature

      Neue Rheine Zeitung, Düsseldorf, 9 February 1966 (another example illustrated)
      Werner Spies, Sigrid Metken and Günter Metken, eds., Max Ernst Œuvre-Katalog. Max Ernst Werke 1954-1963, Cologne, 1998, no. 3811, p. 399 (silver example illustrated)

Maximiliana: Max Ernst from the Collection of Peter Schamoni


Homme (Spezialpreis für die Kurzfilmtage in Oberhausen)

incised with the artist's name and foundry 'max ernst Susse Fondeur Paris' on the base
28 x 12 x 10 cm (11 x 4 3/4 x 3 7/8 in.)
Conceived in 1960 and cast by Susse Fondeur, Paris in 1966, this work is from an edition of 5 bronze examples cast as a special prize for the Internationale Westdeutsche Kurzfilmtage festival in Oberhausen.

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.

Other examples from this edition were awarded to Jan Lenica, Walerian Borowczyk, and Jan Švankmajer, with the final example gifted to Schloss Oberhausen by Hilmar Hoffmann.

Full Cataloguing

£65,000 - 85,000 ‡♠

Sold for £151,200

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+44 7391 402741


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021