Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985) Détails du mécanisme d'un réveil national 120 x 100 cm.

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Lot 31AR
Nikos Engonopoulos
(Greek, 1910-1985)
Détails du mécanisme d'un réveil national 120 x 100 cm.

Sold for £ 118,750 (US$ 154,731) inc. premium
Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
Détails du mécanisme d'un réveil national
signed 'N.Engonopoulos' (lower right)
oil on canvas
120 x 100 cm.


  • Painted in 1939.

    Andreas Embirikos collection, Athens.
    Private collection, Athens.

    Athens, National Gallery - Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Nikos Engonopoulos, April 3-15, 1983, no. 9 (listed in the exhibition catalogue).

    Tetradio Magazine, no. 3, December 1945, p. 42 (referred), p. 48 (discussed), p. 48c (illustrated).
    A. Xydis, Proposals for the History of Modern Greek Art, Olkos editions, Athens 1976, vo. 1, p. 152 (referred), p. 160 (discussed), p. 157 (illustrated, no. 33).
    K. Perpinioti-Agazir, Nikos Engonopoulos, Son Univers Pictural, exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonée, Benaki Museum, Athens 2007, no. 253, p. 249 (illustrated), p. 417 (catalogued, discussed and illustrated).
    N. Chaini, The Painting of Nikos Engonopoulos, doctoral dissertation, National Technical University of Athens, 2007, no. 186, pp. 474 (discussed), p. 475 (illustrated).

    One of the most important surrealist paintings ever to surface in the Greek auction market, this emblematic Engonopoulos is a fine example of the artist's fervently sought after pre-war paintings and Greek Revolution subjects. As noted by Professor S. Rozanis, "for him, the 1821 uprising was a celebration, a feast, an outburst, like nature's explosion in early spring."1

    Using cross-temporal iconographic leaps that were common during the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine eras in both miniature manuscripts and narthex decoration,2 Engonopoulos transports the viewer from ancient to modern times, staging in front of a drawn curtain3 a dream-like scene from the treasure trove of Greek history. The peaceful coexistence of ancient past (exemplified by the foreground statue, the helmeted warrior, the ionic column and the background temple4 ), recent history (illustrated by the kilted warrior of the Greek War of Independence) and modern reality (captured in such apt details as the hanging ceiling lamp5 and the wig stand in the extreme foreground) sets forth the main aesthetic and ideological preoccupations of the 1930s generation and faithfully reflects the artist's attitude towards painting, both as a long and rich tradition to draw from, as well as an ideal vehicle to probe into the inner world of Greekness.

    Discussing the painting, art critic A. Xydis noted: "In this work, Engonopoulos has included in his own signature style some of the elements that constitute the 'mechanism' of a nation's uprising. On the left, a kilted, sword-bearing warrior holding an axe (alluding to Kolokotronis?). His overcoat blue, his head ancient-statue like, his hand resting on an ancient marble torso. Behind him the phantom of an opportunist admiral (Cochran?) in his red frock coat tunic, golden epaulets and black fedora. On the right, sitting on a green couch, a nude female figure wearing a Hydriot head scarf. Behind them, an ancient Greek hoplites-bodyguard and in the distance a temple and the Acropolis. In the right foreground, a turbaned blood-red head possibly alluding to beheaded Turks."6

    This persistence on indigenous cultural experiences combined with a deep sense for the historical past clearly indicates that "while European surrealists used an irrational vocabulary to break free from the shackles of traditional conventions, Engonopoulos perceived tradition as a 'connecting link' that would restore cultural continuity."7 As noted by Athens National Gallery Director M. Lambraki-Plaka, "his figures may draw their origin from Giorgio de Chirico but they are unmistakably Greek, reminiscent of the Minoans immortalized on the Knossos frescoes and the early kouroi, while alluding to the tall and slender formula of the Byzantine saints also evident in El Greco's work."8 Moreover, as noted by N. Loizidi, an expert on surrealism, Engonopoulos's mannequins are not generic androgynous figures like de Chirico's, but persons with clearly defined gender characteristics. Women, like the nude beauty resting on the green sofa, are represented with voluptuous curves and daringly rendered nipples."9 Likewise, Professor D. Papastamos notes that "Engonopoulos's heroes are not 'disquieted'; on the contrary they fully experience an everyday reality still bound with tradition and eastern myths."10

    1. As quoted in "This is how Engonopoulos Saw 1821"[in Greek], O Kosmos tou Ependyti newspaper, 21.3.1999.
    2. See D. Vlachodimos, Reading the Past in Engonopoulos [in Greek], Indiktos publ., Athens 2006, p. 228.
    3. "Engonopoulos's drawn curtains reveal things and introduces them to us." E. Benisi, Nikos Engonopoulos and Cityscapes [in Greek], doctoral dissertation, University of Athens, 2006, p. 162.
    4. An allusion to the famous representations of the Parthenon by his beloved teacher C. Parthenis. See Benisi, p. 237.
    5. The lamp is a distinct and recurring theme in Engonopoulos's work with symbolic overtones. Compare Hora Ruit, 1939, and Orphée, 1963 (Bonhams, Greek Sale 26.4.2016, lot 43).
    6. A. Xydis, "Nikos Engonopoulos, a Greek Surrealist Painter" [in Greek], Tetradio Magazine, no. 3, December 1945, p. 48, reprinted in A. Xydis, Proposals for the History of Modern Greek Art [in Greek], Olkos editions, Athens 1976, vo. 1, p. 160. See also N. Chaini, The Painting of Nikos Engonopoulos [in Greek], doctoral dissertation, National Technical University of Athens, 2007, p. 474.
    7. N. Loizidi, "The Indigenous Surrealism of Nikos Engonopoulos" [in Greek], To Vima daily - Nees Epoches, 21.10.2007, p. A57.
    8. M. Lambraki-Plaka "The Timeless Pantheon of Nikos Engonopoulos" [in Greek], Filologiki quarterly, no. 101, October-November-December 2007, p. 9.
    9. N. Loizidi, "Regarding Jef, Midnight's Great Automaton" [in Greek] in Location: Engonopoulos, exhibition catalogue, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki 2007, p.11.
    10. D. Papastamos, preface to the Nikos Engonopoulos retrospective exhibition catalogue [in Greek], National Gallery - A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 1983, p. 8.

Saleroom notices

  • Additional Exhibitions Athens, Benaki Museum, Nikos Engonopoulos, Son Univers Pictural, 2007, no. 253 (discussed and illustrated in the exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonée, pp. 249, 417). Andros, Museum of Contemporary Art, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Approaching Surrealism, July 1 - September 30, 2012 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, p. 207). Paris, Palais de Tokyo, Hell As Pavilion, February 25 - April 4, 2013 (discussed and illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, pp. 45, 63).
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