With its title designed by Paul Nougé, L'Empire des lumières reached a similar notoriety. The theme is commonplace : a night view of a suburb inspired by the Brussels district where Magritte resides.
The inhabitants are not visible but we imagine them behind the lighted windows. A lamppost illuminates the street with a questionable effectiveness. Beside these few glows the shadows are saturated. No contradiction of scale comes to puzzle the viewer.
Above this peaceful night the sky is blue, dotted with white clouds. The artist asks a poetic question for which he knows that there is no answer : are day and night incompatible or are they two complementary elements of real life?
The first variant of the Empire des lumières was completed in 1949. This oil on canvas 49 x 59 cm is estimated $ 14M for sale by Christie's in New York on November 13, lot 12 A.
The friends of the artist are enthusiastic and Magritte makes many variants on order over the years. An Empire des lumières 100 x 80 cm painted in 1952 was sold for $ 11.5 million by Christie's on May 7, 2002.
Nobody dared questioning if the Empire des lumières was not just a clumsy twilight. Magritte himself brings a disturbing continuation much later with La Fin du monde. Over the same place the sky has become black and in a better logic the horizon is still bright. The signature head with the bowler hat appears as a threat amidst the black silhouettes of the trees. This oil on canvas 82 x 100 cm painted in 1963 was sold for $ 7M including premium by Christie's on November 1, 2011.
SOLD for $ 20.6M including premium