The Red Model III
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mmarcure's picture


The Red Model III, in spite of its framing, is actually not an ad for a pair of alternative shoes.

The style is a bit too morbid for that. There are no cozy fire pits, nor logs, nor artisanal s’mores to incentivize a consumer’s interest in a more natural product. Instead, there’s an air of desolation here, quite like a haunted house. Matchsticks and coins litter the ground. The ground looks thick, rocky, and largely untenable for life. A torn and weathered piece of what appears to be newspaper has a woman posing uncomfortably in the bottom right corner. Creepy.

Rene Magritte is known for his surrealistic upending of the ordinary while retaining the boring bits. And The Red Model III is no different. Look at that setting: it looks like a barren backyard in which the best feature is just a wooden fence. So middle class, so bourgeoisie. Magritte himself said the bourgeoisie order is only ordered in its own disorderliness, and is known as a harsh critic of the middle class.

But that forgets the transformation of the boot into a human foot, which is both extraordinary and gross. Supposedly, he was inspired to make the The Red Model series, of which there are seven, because of a shoemaker’s sign that fellow artist Max Ernst showed him. This doesn’t explain the quaint shock of the image, which might not be out of place in a David Lynch film. Perhaps the shoes belong to a ghost. Actually, this reading might not be too out of place.

Magritte’s mother drowned herself when he was only 14, and it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to consider this fact when viewing the Red Model III. Boots, and shoes in general, are the things which weather the highs and lows of an individual's existence, and which can outlive those who possess them as a remnant, a type of record. The fact that the shoes are turning into a human foot might reflect that, once someone passes on, their material possessions become a persistent reflection of who they were. It’s a trace of someone now gone, a ghost.

Or maybe it’s the inverse. Magritte is showing us that we internalize the hardships we encounter as a living individual by personifying the boot. No matter what, the boot presented in the Red Model III would be terrible to wear, even if it was on sale. It’s a good thing Magritte never went into fashion.




  1. Wood, Christopher. Review of Selected Writings – René Magritte. Accessed October 2018.
  2. "Le Modèle Rouge René Magritte." Panorama De L'art. Accessed October 2018.
  3. Soby, James Thrall. René Magritte. Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York. PDF.