"It is not to be despised, in my opinion, if, after gazing fixedly at the spot on the wall, the coals in the grate, the clouds, the flowing stream, if one remembers some of their aspects; and if you look at them carefully you will discover some quite admirable inventions. Of these the genius of the painter may take full advantage, to compose battles of animals and men, of landscapes or monsters, of devils and other fantastic things which bring you honour. In these confused things genius becomes aware of new inventions." (Leonardo da Vinci, Treatise on Painting.)
Executed in 1927, La mariée du vent ("Bride of the Wind") is one of a series of celebrated frottage paintings made in the mid-1920s where the subject matter of each painting emerged directly from the textures of rubbed natural forms that were used by Ernst as the starting point of each work. The title La mariée du vent is the French version of the poetic German name for "Windsbraut" meaning a storm-wind and translates literally as "bride of the wind." Windsbraut was the title of Kokoschka's well-known 1914 painting of an erotically charged tempest and has been similarly used by Ernst as the title of a number of frottage paintings such as this one that depict the struggling forms of horses as a symbol of sexual union.
Like his other major series of works from this period, the Hordes, the precise nature of the imagery in La mariée du vent originated in the grained patterns of the frottaged background. "It is as a spectator that the author assists, indifferent or passionate, at the birth of his work and watches the phases of its development, " Ernst maintained of these paintings, "Even as the role of the poet....consists in writing according to the dictates of that which articulates itself in him, so the role of the painter is to pick out and project that which sees itself in him..." (Ernst, On Frottage, 1936, cited in Theories of Modern Art Hershell. B. Chipp, Berkely CA. 1968 p.429)
The image of two horses struggling with one another in a seemingly weightless space is a powerful archetypal image that has here been used by Ernst to create an elegant image of turbulent union. Like a tempestuous ying and yang the two horses seem to both oppose and unite with one another in a manner that is reminiscent of Leonardo's celebrated equestrian battle scene , The Battle of the Anghari. "I was surprised," Ernst later remarked of the images that emerged from his unconscious in such paintings," by the sudden intensification of my visionary capacities and by the hallucinatory succession of contradictory images superimposed, one upon the other, with the persistence and rapidity characteristic of amorous memories. My curiosity awakened and astonished, I began to experiment indifferently and to question, utilising the same means, all sorts of materials to be found in my visual field; leaves and their veins, the ragged edges of a bit of linen, the brushstrokes of a modern painting, the unwound thread of a spool, etc. There my eyes discovered human heads, animals, (and) a battle that ended with a kiss (The Bride of the Wind)" (Ibid. pp. 429-431.)
La mariée du vent
Oil on canvas
THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
Signed 'Max Ernst' (lower right)
28¾ x 36¼ in.(73 x 92 cm.)
Collection Edmond Bomsel, Paris.
Anon. sale, Drouot Montaigne, Paris, 24 November 1989.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.