The Collection

Home Page > Works > Phoenix of the mask


Manuscript by André Breton dated Paris, 27 June 1960.

Recalling the exhibition Le Masque (The Mask) that had opened in December 1959, in this text from 1960, destined for the periodical XXe siècle, Breton gives a laudatory account of this event that he had helped to organise – notably by lending many items from his personal collection. Nevertheless, he regrets that few Oceanic objects had been included, particularly those from New Britain, the ‘triumph of the subtle over the coarse’.


Signed handwritten manuscript, Paris, 27 June 1960.

3 in-4° manuscript pages in ink, titled, dated and signed by André Breton, with deletions and corrections, of a text relating to the exhibition Le Masque held from December 1959 to the end of September 1960 at the Musée Guimet, Paris:

‘Above all, its great success stemmed from the organisers’ concern to prioritise pieces of the kind least common in Europe, starting with the Eskimo masks, those from the Pacific Northwest coast and Pueblo masks (Hopi and Zuni Indians from the Southwestern United States). [...] It is clearly evident that the mask, as a “hypnotising instrument”, “condensing the organic subconscious”, derives all of its virtues from the disturbance it has been designed to provoke. To break the emotional chain that joins us to the profound impulses from which the mask has emerged would be to ignore the real problem, or answer it merely with derisory solutions. […] It is central to surrealist intentions to shield the mask from the winds of derision and the defilements of the carnival. The decisive step in this direction was taken by Jean Benoît, as he revealed himself on 2 December 1959 in the Execution of the Last Testament of the marquis de Sade.'

(Published in the journal XXe siècle, new series, no. 15, Christmas 1960.) [Auction catalogue, 2003]


Translated by Krzysztof Fijalkowski


André Breton (Édition publiée sous la direction d'Étienne-Alain Hubert avec la collaboration de Philippe Bernier et Marie-Claire Dumas), « Phénix du masque », Perspective cavalière, Œuvres complètes, tome IV, Écrits sur l'art et autres textes, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 2008, p. 990-996, notice p. 1427-1428.

Creation date27/06/1960
Bibliographical material

3 in-4° manuscript pages in blue ink.

Number of pages3
Breton Auction, 2003Lot 2483
Keywords, , , , , ,
CategoriesAndre Breton's Manuscripts
Set[AB's Manuscripts] Manuscripts 1958-1966, [Revue] XXe siècle
Permanent link

See also

1 Work

XXe siècle, nouvelle série, n° 15


Numéro 15, de Noël 1960, de cette revue d'art fondée et dirigée par San Lazzaro à Paris.

Deux images, une notice descriptive, un lien.

[Revue] XXe siècle