In effect, bowler hats became Magritte’s iconographic signature. “That’s the irony,” says Haskell. “He adopts it because it’s anonymous, and it becomes Magritte himself. He’s selecting anonymity as the marker of himself.”
This is illustrated in The Son of Man, a rare example of a Magritte that was definitely intended to function as a self-portrait. The artist paints himself with a bowler hat and an oversized apple floating in front of his face obscuring his actual identity.
Which all brings us back to The Thomas Crown Affair, oddly enough, which makes such ample use of The Son of Man. Crown has posed for the video surveillance cameras, showing us who and where he is, only to seamlessly melt as a bourgeois cipher into the crowd. We can’t quite put our finger on him. Never has such ordinary clothing been such a remarkable tease.