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The Presence of the Gauls



Author André Breton
People cited Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Marcel Duchamp


Manuscript of a text relating to the numismatics of the ancient peoples of Gaul.

A discovery? No, a ‘revelation’. We know that Breton became an informed collector of Gallic coins towards the end of his life, their fascination for him being as a refusal or resistance offered to the solar and rational domination of Graeco-Roman aesthetics. Taking his cue from Apollinaire, in this essay he establishes an unprecedented relationship between this forgotten age and the most exciting discoveries of modern art - in particular Duchamp's idea of a ‘non-retinal’ art. A culture of secret resistance, favouring mystery over reason, night over day, Gallic art appears on reading this text as one of the secret ancestors of Surrealism’s secret ancestors.

‘Présent des Gaules’ - written for the exhibition Pérennité de l'art gaulois [Perenniality of Gallic Art] held at the Musée pédagogique in February 1955 - was included in the definitive edition of Surréalisme et la peinture[Surrealism and Painting] in 1965.

Signed autograph manuscript, Paris, 3 January 1955 

2 handwritten pages in-4°, titled, dated and signed in ink by Breton, with erasures and corrections, of this text concerning the numismatics of the ancient peoples of Gaul: 

"The discovery of Gallic medallions - or, rather, the revelation in broad daylight of the art that presides over them - provides an unexpected degree of help and assurance in this regard. We are fully indebted to Lancelot Lengyel for this very recent revelation. Before him, these small coins, long-despised (...) had only aroused an interest limited mostly to the requirements of historical investigation.”

(Ink stain in the centre of the first page)


Pérennité de l'art gaulois [Perenniality of Gallic Art], Musée pédagogique, 29 rue d'Ulm Paris, 18 February to 2 April 1955.



- André Breton, Réédition de Le Surréalisme et la peinture, Gallimard, 1965
- André Breton, préface pour une exposition au Musée pédagogique du 29 rue d'Ulm, février 1955.

Creation date03-janv.-55
Date of publication 1955
Physical descriptionMs - encre noire
Breton Auction, 2003Lot 2396
Keywords, ,
CategoriesAndre Breton's Manuscripts
Set[Breton's Manuscripts and Drawings] dossier Le Surréalisme et la peinture
ExhibitionPérennité de l'art gaulois
Permanent link
Exhibition place

See also

1 Work

[Ta lettre m'apporte tant… ]

Wolfgang Paalen


Lettre de Wolfgang Paalen à André Breton, datée du 14 février 1955.

Deux images, une notice descriptive, une bibliothèque, une œuvre associée.

[Correspondance] Correspondance avec Wolgang Paalen