AP Exclusive: Unusual Magritte could hit $17.5M at auction

LONDON — One of the largest paintings by Surrealist master Rene Magritte could set a record for the artist when it is goes up for sale with an estimated price of 14 million pounds ($17.5 million).

Christie's auction house told The Associated Press Monday that it will offer "La Corde Sensible" ("Heartstrings") in London on Feb. 28. It will go on display at Christie's London showroom Feb. 23.

The Belgian artist painted the image of a crystal Champagne glass topped with a frothy crown of clouds in a mountainous landscape in 1960 and gave it to his wife as a gift. The couple later sold it, and it has been in a private Belgian collection since 1990.

At 114 centimeters by 146 centimeters (almost 4 feet by 5 feet) it's one of Magritte's largest oil paintings. It features a playful visual juxtaposition shared by his more famous images of bowler hats and pipes. But Christie's deputy chairman of Impressionist and modern art, Olivier Camu, said the painting's composition of cloud and glass is unique in Magritte's work.

He said the painting "is the most striking painting by Magritte that we have sold at auction" since the 2002 sale of "The Dominion of Lights." That sold for almost $12.7 million, then a record for the artist. In 2014, rival auctioneer Sotheby's sold Magritte's "Le Beau Monde" for 7.9 million pounds — $12.9 million at the time.

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