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Bona de Mandiargues (1926-2000)

Fossili, 1952

Catalogue essay by Blanche Llewellyn

Bona de Mandiargues was a Surrealist Italian-French artist, writer, and translator. In Paris, she met the poet André Pieyre de Mandiargues whom she married in 1950, who introduced her to André Breton, Francis Ponge, and Jean Paulhan. In 1952, the same year as this painting, Bona showcased her artwork for the first time at the Galerie Berggruen, following an exhibition by Man Ray. Subsequently, she was invited by the surrealists, with André Breton personally requesting her participation, in the Surrealist Exhibition of 1954.

“Thanks to the surrealist group, I was able to see more clearly within myself and in what I sought to express.”

In her painting Fossili, the ancient traces of nature embody a tangible link to the past, the transient cycle of existence and the rhythm of life and death. Discernible within her fossils, human and animal-like features emerge. One fossil, lighter in hue, resembles a face, pained and hollow. The face is positioned atop what appears to be a hat stand crafted from green wood, serving as a metaphor, in her own words, of a “nature sequestered by tourism, in front of the ruins more or less rebuilt, surrounded by the hideous constructions of developers and speculators.” The darker one, akin to wood, takes on the appearance of a falcon posed for flight. The unconventional composition highlights a contrast between the superficial destruction of nature in the 1950s (a concern for Bona) and an internal illumination. Light filters through the canvas, casting an ethereal glow that hints at a deeper, hidden truth lying beneath the surface, thus linking the picture to the surrealist ethos.


x W60cm
Oil on canvas, Signed
Bona de Mandiargues

Bona de Mandiargues (1926-2000)

Bona de Mandiargues (1926-2000) studied at the Beaux-Arts in Modena and then at the Beaux-Arts in Venice where her uncle Filippo de Pisis lived. Her career as a painter began after her marriage to André Pieyre de Mandiargues in 1950 where upon her arrival in France, she met the surrealist group. She exhibited in Paris at Berggruen Gallery, in 1952, with Francis Ponge writing the preface to the catalogue; Octavio Paz, a Mexican poet and diplomat was a big supporter of her work, especially of the group she exhibited in Mexico City in 1959. She also participated in various surrealist exhibitions including "E.R.O.S." at Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris (1959). "Bona paints in a state of distraction conducive to lucidity, and it is undoubtedly through painting that she finds the long-forgotten path. She paints without knowing exactly what, or why, not as one breathes, but as one walks around blindly in an apartment where darkness falls, after sundown.... She looks at the present time with a certain mocking smile, in which one can guess her secret admiration for all that is inexplicable."
Alain Jouffroy, extract from the catalogue of the exhibition "Bona - Colimaçonneries", Galerie de Seine, Paris, 1974