The Robing of the Bride. The title of one of Max Ernst’s most mysterious paintings | J.G. Ballard

The Robing of the Bride.

The title of one of Max Ernst’s most mysterious paintings. An unseen woman is being prepared by two attendants for her marriage, and is dressed in an immense gown of red plumage that transforms her into a beautiful and threatening bird. Behind her, as if in a mirror, is a fossilized version of herself, fashioned from archaic red coral. All my respect and admiration of women is prompted by this painting, which I last saw at Peggy Guggenheim’s museum in Venice, stared at by bored students. Leaving them. I strayed into a private corridor of the palazzo, and a maid emerging through a door with a vacuum cleaner gave me a glimpse into a bedroom overlooking the Grand Canal. Sitting rather sadly on the bed was Miss Guggenheim herself, sometime Alice at the surrealist tea-party, a former wife of Max Ernst and by then an old woman. As she stared at the window I half-expected to see the bird costume on the floor beside her. She was certainly entitled to wear it.

From The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard

Illustration to Leonora Carrington’s The Oval Lady — Max Ernst

Max Ernst’s illustration for Leonora Carrington’s 1939 collection The Oval Lady.

The Antipope — Max Ernst

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The Antipope, 1942 by Max Ernst (1891–1976)

Forest and Dove — Max Ernst

Forest and Dove 1927 by Max Ernst 1891-1976

Forest and Dove, 1927 by Max Ernst (1891–1976)

The Wavering Woman — Max Ernst

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The Wavering Woman, 1923 by Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Swampangel — Max Ernst

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Swampangel, 1940 by Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Oedipus Rex — Max Ernst

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Enter, Exit — Max Ernst

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The Eye of Silence — Max Ernst

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Men Shall Know Nothing of This — Max Ernst

Men Shall Know Nothing of This 1923 by Max Ernst 1891-1976

The Entire City — Max Ernst

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Paris Dream — Max Ernst

At the First Clear Word — Max Ernst

Wizard Woman — Max Ernst

From A Week of Kindness — Max Ernst

Temptation of St. Anthony — Max Ernst

My Friend Pierrot — Max Ernst