Given the theme of this week’s magazine today’s “In the Picture” is a tale of two Beatles-related images: the Surrealist artist Rene Magritte’s painting of an apple, entitled Le Jeu de Morre, privately owned, jealously guarded, never exhibited and only reproducible in the form of a somewhat murky black-and-white illustration taken in the late 1960s; and the Beatle’s Apple Corps logo, which, it recently emerged, was directly derived from it.

Magritte’s picture, which dates from 1966, late in the artist’s life, appears as number 1051 in Volume 3 of the catalogue raisonne of the artist’s work. The authors of that weighty and learned tome, assembled under the editorial supervision of David Sylvester, quote the somewhat unilluminating Larousse dictionary definition of Mora, or Mourre, as “a game in which one of the players rapidly displays a hand with some fingers raised, the others folded inwards, while his opponent calls out a number which, for him to win, has to correspond to that of the total of raised fingers”; and they go on to speculate that Magritte’s curious choice of title is probably a play on words, a pun on the phrase “Les jeunes amours” (“young love”), which the artist had already used for the title of an earlier picture showing three apples rather than one. They add that they “have not been able to examine the picture” and record its whereabouts simply as “Private Collection”.

The truth about who owns the painting and how he came to possess it only emerged recently, with the publication of Harriet Vyner’s 1999 book of reminiscences about the late lamented charismatic London art dealer Robert Fraser, Groovy Bob. Among many other strange and interesting revelations (including the suggestion that Fraser may have enjoyed a night of passion with fellow soldier Idi Amin...

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