Leonor Fini (French, 1908-1996) Jeu de dames ou Le pari de Zobeïde
Lot 25AR
Leonor Fini
(French, 1908-1996)
Jeu de dames ou Le pari de Zobeïde
Sold for £40,000 (US$ 67,232) inc. premium
Lot Details
Leonor Fini (French, 1908-1996)
Jeu de dames ou Le pari de Zobeïde
indistinctly signed 'Leonor Fini' (lower right) and further inscribed 'Leonor FINI Jeux [sic] de dames/ Sympathie/ pour Mme/ De Wit/ Leonor Fini' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
54 x 73cm (21 1/4 x 28 3/4in).
Painted in 1975


  • The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the Leonor Fini Archives and will be included in the catalogue raisonné currently in preparation under the archive no. 0809.

    Born in Buenos Aires and raised in Trieste, Italy, Leonor Fini demonstrated a precocious artistic talent from an early age. After moving to Paris in the early 1930s, her beauty as well as her gregarious and magnetic personality helped to bring her to centre stage in the Parisian art-world. Max Ernst became her lover for a short time and introduced her to André Breton as well as a host of leading surrealist writers and painters, including Paul Eluard, Salvador Dalí and Man Ray, all of whom became close friends of the artist. André Breton, impressed by her automatic drawings declared her a Surrealist muse; however Fini was not flattered by the pronouncement and rebuffed Breton, considering her artistic talents to far exceed that of mere inspiration.

    While Fini never became a formal member of the movement, she nonetheless retained a strong affinity with the Surrealist group, exhibiting with them throughout her career. She appeared for instance in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London and in frequent surrealist group shows in later life.

    Although Fini was always cautious not to expressly align herself with a feminist discourse, a persistent theme in her work is the role of women in society and the complex dialogue between the sexes. Her paintings post-1960 move towards a preference for more precise figuration, often portraying strange encounters between mythological creatures or figures which are expressed through an unsettling, hyper-naturalistic realism.

    In Jeu de dames or Le pari de Zobeïde we observe a familiar intimate coupling, two figures – a woman, dressed in sumptuous Eastern robes, and a crouched androgynous being. Both figures are intent on a playing a game of jeu de dames or draughts, their poses and the lustrous wall motif behind the figures lend the scene an oriental atmosphere. Indeed, the alternative title of the work directly references the tale of Le pari de Zobeïde (Zobeide's wager) in the Arabian Nights stories.

    In this narrative, the Caliph and his Princess Zobeide are tricked into believing that each other's beloved servants have died, yet both are also rightly convinced that their own servant still lives. The story foregrounds the resolute Zobeide who refuses to yield to her King's assertions that her servant is dead, remaining true to what she knows she has witnessed. She refuses to be intimidated and even wagers her Palace of Paintings against the Caliph's Garden of Pleasures to demonstrate her conviction.

    Fini, like Zobeide, remained true to herself, producing work which was resolutely her own and refusing to adhere to contemporary artistic debates. As the Polish writer Konstanty Jeleński, her friend, lover and commentator notes: 'Leonor Fini does not belong to those artists who, as products of their own time, put their stamp on it because they are the first to express what is so confusingly happening in the minds and in the sensitivities of their contemporaries...she creates a universe that is hers alone and that only owes to her own time that which can nourish this deep originality.' (quoted in P. Webb, Sphinx: The Life and Art of Leonor Fini, New York, 2009, p. 215)
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