The Son of Man in Popular Culture

The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973) movie poster

 
 

René Magritte‘s The Son of Man appears in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film The Holy Mountain, on a wall in the house of Jupiter. The film was produced by Beatles manager Allen Klein of ABKCO Music and Records, after Jodorowsky scored an underground phenomenon with El Topo (The Mole) and the acclaim of both John Lennon and George Harrison (Lennon and Yoko Ono put up production money).

 
 

Robin Williams in Toys (Barry Levinson, 1992).

The set design, costumes, and promotional poster reflect the painting’s style.

 
 

A parody of the painting, with Bart behind the floating apple, can be seen briefly at the start of The Simpsons episode No. 86  Treehouse of Horror IV (1993)

 
 

The painting appears briefly on the video for Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s song Scream , on the “Gallery” section:

 
 

Still from Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s Scream music video (Mark Romanek, 1995)

 
 

The Thomas Crown Affair (John McTiernan, 1999)

 
 

The Son of Man appears several times in the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair, especially in the final robbery scenes when men wearing bowler hats and trench coats carry briefcases throughout the museum to cover Crown’s movements and confuse the security team.

 
 

Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006)

 
 

This is not an Apple, illustration by John Cox, 2007

 
 

In the film Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Zach Helm, 2007), the painting is seen hanging on the wall half finished; at the end of the film Mr Magorium is seen to be painting the rest of it.

 
 

This painting also shows up at the end of the film Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008). British prisoner Charlie Bronson takes a hostage and turns him into this particular portrait

 
 

 In the movie 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009), the bowler hat and green apple can be seen in Summer’s apartment

 
 

The cover of the book Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business (2009) has a version of the painting, with a pomegranate

 
 

In Jimmy Liao’s illustrated book Starry Starry Night (2011), the protagonist girl, with the painting illustrated behind her, imitates the painting to express her protest against her parents’ long term fighting.

 
 

In Gary Braunbeck’s novel Keepers (2005), the antagonist figures (the “Keepers” of the title) resemble the nattily-dressed, bowler-hatted figures of Magritte’s painting. Also, in the opening scene of the book, the reference is directly made and explained to this resemblance because of an apple-scented car air freshener printed with the image of the painting hanging in the protagonist’s car.

In Lev Grossman’s 2009 novel The Magicians the antagonist is a man wearing a suit, with his face obscured by a leafed branch suspended in midair.

Hidden the Visible

The Son of Man (1964)

 

René Magritte painted it as a self-portrait. The painting consists of a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing in front of a low wall, beyond which is the sea and a cloudy sky. The man’s face is largely obscured by a hovering green apple. However, the man’s eyes can be seen peeking over the edge of the apple. Another subtle feature is that the man’s left arm appears to bend backwards at the elbow.

 

 

About the painting, Magritte said:

“At least it hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”

 

The Great War on Façades (1964)

 

Man in a Bowler Hat (1964)

 
The Son of Man resembles The Great War on Façades (La Grande Guerre Façades), another Magritte painting featuring similar imagery. Both feature a person standing in front of a wall overlooking the sea. The Great War on Façades, however, features a woman holding an umbrella, her face covered by a flower. There is also Man in the Bowler Hat, a similar painting where the man’s face is obscured by a bird rather than an apple.

The Night Apple

Le fils de l’homme, (The Son of Man), René Magritte, 1964

 
 

“Last night I dreamed
of one I loved
for seven long years,
but I saw no face,
only the familiar
presence of the body:
sweat skin eyes
feces urine sperm
saliva all one
odor and mortal taste.”

Allen Ginsberg
Empty Mirror: Early Poems
1961