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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Magritte picture sells for £2.3m
Magritte's Sky Bird
The painting sold for nearly three times its reserve price

A painting by Belgian surrealist master René Magritte has fetched 3.4 million euros (£2.3m) at auction.

The work, L'Oiseau de Ciel (Sky Bird), was regarded as the most important Magritte painting to go under the hammer during the past two decades.

It had been commissioned by the former Belgian airline Sabena in 1965.

The picture was sold to help raise money for 12,000 ex-Sabena employees made redundant when the airline went bankrupt in 2001.

It fetched almost three times its asking price during the sale in a hangar at Brussels international airport on Monday.

The work depicts the silhouette of a bird resembling a dove with its body filled with clouds.

Set against a blue sky, the bird is flying above a lit runway.

Magritte was a relatively unknown artist outside the art world at the time it was commissioned.

It is not known how much Sabena paid for the painting, but Magritte reportedly said the fee allowed him to put "butter on my spinach".

Last month, works by Magritte were among Surrealist items collected by poet Andre Breton that fetched 46 million euros (£31.8m) at auction in Paris.



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