The Treachery of Images

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The Treachery of Images
ArtistRené Magritte
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions60.33 cm × 81.12 cm (23.75 in × 31.94 in)
LocationLos Angeles County Museum of Art[1]

The Treachery of Images (French: La Trahison des images) is a 1929 painting by Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. It is also known as This Is Not a Pipe[2] and The Wind and the Song.[3] Magritte painted it when he was 30 years old. It is on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[1]

The painting shows an image of a pipe. Below it, Magritte painted, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", French for "This is not a pipe".

The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it's just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture "This is a pipe", I'd have been lying!

— René Magritte[4]

The theme of pipes with the text "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" is extended in Les Mots et Les Images,[5] La Clé des Songes,[6] Ceci n'est pas une pipe (L'air et la chanson),[7] The Tune and Also the Words,[8] Ceci n’est pas une pomme,[9] and Les Deux Mystères.[10]

The painting is sometimes given as an example of meta message conveyed by paralanguage,[11] like Alfred Korzybski's "The word is not the thing" and "The map is not the territory", as well as Denis Diderot's This is not a story. One interpretation is that the pipe in the painting is not a pipe, but rather a drawing of a pipe.

On December 15, 1929, Paul Éluard and André Breton published an essay about poetry in La Révolution surréaliste (The Surrealist Revolution) as a reaction to the publication by poet Paul Valéry "Notes sur la poésie" in Les Nouvelles littéraires of September 28, 1929. When Valéry wrote "Poetry is a survival", Breton and Éluard made fun of it and wrote "Poetry is a pipe", as a reference to Magritte's painting.[12]

In the same edition of La Révolution surréaliste, Magritte published "Les mots et les images" (his founding text which illustrated where words play with images), his answer to the survey on love, and Je ne vois pas la [femme] cachée dans la forêt, a painting tableau surrounded by photos of sixteen surrealists with their eyes closed, including Magritte himself.

In popular culture[edit]

In 2002, French Hip Hop group TTC from Paris released their first album titled Ceci N'est Pas Un Disque on Big Dada.[13]

In 2014, American singer-songwriter Rob Cantor released his debut solo album titled "Not a Trampoline", with the album cover featuring a picture of a chicken drumstick.

In 2020, South Korean boyband Tomorrow X Together released a concept photo teaser for their EP The Dream Chapter: Eternity, featuring a shabby plush toy with the caption: "Ceci n'est pas un nounours" (French for "This is not a teddy bear"), evidently in the fashion of The Treachery of Images.[14]

The programming language R has a package that develops a pipe operator; the package is named "magrittr" and quotes "Ceci n'est pas un pipe".[15]

The episode of Murdoch Mysteries, Season 12 Episode 5, named "The Spy Who Loved Murdoch", begins with a slain French diplomat. In his hand is a pipe held like a gun rather than in the manner for smoking. A French intelligence agent removes the pipe from his hand and shows it to Murdoch. She then says "Ceci n'est pas une pipe", removes the mouthpiece, and reveals it is a single shot pistol disguised as a pipe.[16][better source needed]

The Tiny Desk (Home) Concert by PUP had a sign that read, "CECI N'EST PAS UNE TINY DESK". This is reference to them playing at home instead of the normal NPR studios due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b La Trahison des images (Ceci n'est pas une pipe), Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  2. ^ Foucault, Michel (2008). This is Not a Pipe (PDF). James Harkness (Editor, Translator), René Magritte (Illustrator) (2nd ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520236943.
  3. ^ Bowman, Russell (2014). "Words and Images: A Persistent Paradox". Art Journal. 45 (4): 335–343. doi:10.1080/00043249.1985.10792322. JSTOR 776809.
  4. ^ Torczyner, Harry (1977). Magritte: Ideas and Images. p. 71. ISBN 9780810913004.
  5. ^ "René Magritte - Les mots et les images". The Ideophone. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  6. ^ "René Magritte - La Clé des Songes". Artnet. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  7. ^ "René Magritte - Ceci n'est pas une pipe (L'air et le chanson)". Artnet. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  8. ^ "René Magritte - L'air et le chanson". Art Institute Chicago. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  9. ^ "René Magritte - Ceci n'est pas une pomme" (PDF). Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  10. ^ "René Magritte - The Two Mysteries". Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  11. ^ Haiman, John (2004). "Review of "Languages within language: An evolutive approach" by Ivan Fonagy". Studies in Language. 28: 246. doi:10.1075/sl.28.1.14hai.
  12. ^ "La revolution surrealiste" (PDF).
  13. ^ Haywood, Brad (2002-05-21). "TTC: Ceci N'Est Pas un Disque". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 2013-05-06. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  14. ^ Kim, Yeeun (April 30, 2020). "투모로우바이투게더, 새 앨범 콘셉트 포토 티저…궁금증 ↑" [Tomorrow by Together, New Album Concept Photo Teaser ... Curious ↑]. Xports News (in Korean). Archived from the original on May 8, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020 – via Naver.
  15. ^ "A Forward-Pipe Operator for R [R package magrittr version 2.0.1]". November 17, 2020.
  16. ^ "'Murdoch Mysteries' The Spy Who Loved Murdoch (TV Episode 2018)", IMDb, retrieved 2021-01-17
  17. ^ "PUP: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert". YouTube. Retrieved 2021-01-22.

Further reading[edit]

  • Allmer, Patricia. René Magritte: Beyond Painting, Manchester University Press, 2009. ISBN 0719079284.
  • Harkness, James, ed. Michel Foucault: This Is Not a Pipe, University of California Press, 2008. ISBN 0520236947.

External links[edit]

External video
video icon Magritte's The Treachery of Images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe), Smarthistory
video icon René Magritte considers language and perception, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art[dead link]