10 Things You Might Not Know About The Son of Man

Belgian painter Rene Magritte forged a reputation for wit and whimsy, but none of his works captured the world’s imagination as intensely as The Son of Man. Even viewers who don't know it by name instantly recognize the surrealist landmark, but there's much more to know about this famous painting and how it fits into Magritte's works as a whole.

1. The Son of Man is a self portrait.

The man behind that floating apple and beneath that bowler is none other than Magritte. If you look closely, you can see his eyes peeking out between the apple and its leaves.

2. It's not Magritte's only apple-centric painting, just his most famous.

Ceci n'est pas une pomme, Rene Magritte

Apples appeared in many of Magritte’s works, including Ceci n'est pas une pomme (1964), Le prêtre marié (1961), The Listening Room (1952), The Habit (1960), and The Postcard (1960).

3. The Bowler hat is also a recurring feature.

This distinctive chapeau can also be found in Golconda (1953), Decalcomania (1966), Le Chef d'Oeuvre (1955), The Spirit of Adventure (1962), and Le Bouquet tout fait (1957).

4. The Son of Man is part of a series.

The oil painting is often grouped with two other works that were also created in 1964. The first is Magritte's Man in the Bowler Hat, which has a similar figure whose face is obscured by a passing bird. The second is The Great War of the Facades, which depicts an elegantly dressed woman in a similar seaside setting with blossoming flowers blocking her face. Juxtaposing ordinary elements in unusual ways was a key theme in Magritte's works.

5. The Son of Man most closely resembles The Taste of The Invisible.

Another painting from 1964, it contains the same bowler-topped dapper gent, complete with red tie, black coat, and green apple. But this variation is far less known, and not generally mentioned in connection with its apparent sister pieces.

6. Some CRITICS believe The Son of Man is a religious painting.

Though the imagery of a modern man and a floating apple near the sea doesn't immediately suggest religious iconography, the title Son of Man does. In the Christian faith, the phrase "Son of Man" refers to Jesus, so some analysts view Magritte's painting as a surrealist depiction of Jesus's transfiguration.

7. Magritte's explanation was more oblique.

Of The Son of Man, he said, "At least it hides the face partly. Well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It's something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present."

8. Norman Rockwell paid homage to The Son of Man.

Rockwell's signature style was anything but surreal, but in 1970 he tried his hand at Magritte's milieu with Mr. Apple. When this painting was put up for auction in 2011, the artist’s letters about its creation were on the block as well.

They read in part, "I must tell you that I got the two apples, and I haven’t eaten them, but I have put them in the refrigerator so they will keep bright and shiny … It will be fun doing such a unique painting." And “Dear Mr. Blum – Here it is! I really enjoyed painting Mr. Apple. I sure hope you like it. The painting may still be wet when you get it. But do not varnish it for a couple of months. If you use a fine mastic varnish it will preserve it forever. Cordially, Norman Rockwell.”

9. Rockwell wasn't the only one inspired to homage.

Allusions or copies of Magritte's most iconic piece have popped up in movies (Stranger Than Fiction, Bronson, The Thomas Crown Affair), books (Lev Grossman's The Magicians, Jimmy Liao's The Starry Starry Night), TV shows (The Simpsons, The Voice) and music videos (Michael Jackson's "Scream" and Yes's "Astral Traveller").

10. It's rare to see the real Son of Man.

Although prints of the piece are popular and readily available, the actual painting is privately owned and rarely goes on display for the public. The Son Of Man was last spotted in the fall of 2011 in Montreal's LHotel’s lounge.

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A Rare Copy of Audubon's Birds of America Could Break Records at Auction
Christie's
Christie's

American artist and naturalist John James Audubon published The Birds of America in the first half of the 19th century, and his massive “double-elephant” folio of life-size bird illustrations remains one of the most ambitious nature books ever produced. On June 14, a rare edition of the four-book set is hitting the auction block, and it's expected to fetch up to $12 million—more than any Audubon book ever sold.

This edition of The Birds of America was owned by the dukes of Portland from around 1839 to 2012. Because it was stored on the shelves of the family's Nottinghamshire, England estate for nearly a century, the set's prints of watercolor drawings have remained remarkably well-preserved.

In 2012, the copy was auctioned off to philanthropist and businessman Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. for nearly $8 million. Knobloch donated the books to the Knobloch Family Foundation (KFF) before his death in 2016. Now, the KFF is sending the books to auction once again. This time, all proceeds of the sale will go to nature conservation.

Set of red leather-bound books.

New York City auction house Christie's describes the set in a listing as "among the finest copies in private hands of this icon of American art, and the finest color-plate book ever produced." Each of the 435 double-elephant folio pages measures 39.5 inches by 26.5 inches, the largest sheets Audubon could get his hands on at the time, and they feature 1037 birds from 500 species. The books are bound in red Moroccan leather with gold detailing on the borders and spines. The four-volume set also comes with the Ornithological Biography, a collection of five books describing the specimens in The Birds of America and their habits.

Christie's estimates the set will sell for $8 million to $12 million when the final bid is placed later this month. To date, the most expensive copy of The Birds of America was a first edition acquired from Sotheby's in London for $11.5 million. That sale also broke the record for the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction, a record held until 2013.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American bird.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American birds.

All images courtesy of Christie's

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Courtesy of Emi Nakajima
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Artist Makes Incredibly Detailed Drawings of Famous Buildings Around the World
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

They say patience is a virtue, but for some artists it’s a necessity. Emi Nakajima’s detailed ink drawings of famous architectural sites, which recently appeared on My Modern Met, typically take about a week to complete. However, her most ambitious undertaking yet—a rendering of Thailand’s Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)—was a five-month endeavor.

Emi Nakajima holding up her drawing in front of the White Temple
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

The Japanese-Thai artist told Mental Floss that the White Temple was particularly difficult to draw. She typically uses A3-sized paper (11.7 by 16.5 inches) for her projects, but she decided to draw the ornate temple on a much larger scale. The paper covered her entire desk—and getting each arch and spiral just right was no small feat. She took her time on the details, chipping away at the drawing after returning home from her day job as an administrative officer in Thailand.

Emi Nakajima drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

Details of the drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

Details of the drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

The completed temple drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

She’s amassed nearly 39,000 followers on Instagram, where she documents the progression of her projects from start to completion. Although her prints aren’t available for purchase online, she does sell her drawings locally.

European architecture features prominently in her work, with past projects including drawings of London’s Big Ben, Barcelona’s Sagrada Família basilica, and France’s Gothic churches. She occasionally branches out from architecture, creating 3D images of food and drawings of superheroes, movie characters, and animals.

Keep scrolling down to see more of Nakajima's architectural drawings, and check out her Instagram page (@emi_nkjm) here.

A drawing of Big Ben
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

Drawing of a cathedral
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

A pagoda drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

Details of a drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

A cathedral drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

[h/t My Modern Met]

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