The painting’s mysterious and somewhat incomprehensible title demonstrates the Surrealist method of linking the worlds of the imagination and reality, whereby non-existent charateristics and relationships are attributed to things with a different original meaning. The parapsychological significance is most aptly characteristics by Count Lautréamont’s definition of Surrealism as the encounter of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissecting table. The conjunction of non-real, as it were natural elements with ideas that emerge from the artist’s subconscious and dream visions is set in the equally unreal landscape. The composition surprises with its areas of colour and the unususualness of the depiction of a dual world.
Štyrský studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague in the studios of Jakub Obrovský and Karl Krattner (1920−1924). In 1922 he met Marie Čermínová, who would become his life partner and artistic collaborator (under the name of Toyen). They both joined the Devětsil group of avant-garde artists in 1923 and lived in Paris from 1925 to 1928, where they developed a unique genre that they termed Artificialism. After meeting André Breton, Guillaume Apollinaire and other Surrealists they established a Surrealists Group in Prague together with
Karel Teige and Vítězslav Nezval. In addition to painting Štyrský is also known for his poems, collages and his photographic cycles Frogman and The Man with Blinkers; he also worked for several years as stage manager at the Liberated Theatre.
Štyrský is represented in the Ostrava collection by three smaller-scale pictures and a key work from the beginnings of Surrealism entitled Cigarette by a Dead Woman, which was first shown in 1932 at the exhibition Poesie 32 at the Mánes Gallery in Prague along with works by members of the Mánes association and foreign artists including Hans Arp, Alberto Giacometti, Salvator Dalí and Joan Miró.
The Hradec Králové Master / The Virgin Mary with SS Barbara and Catherine