• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1994

    Impressionist And Modern Art Evening Sale

    6 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 34

    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

    Buste de femme au corsage orné d'une broche

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
    Buste de femme au corsage orné d'une broche
    dated '2 Mai 1943' (upper left)
    gouache, watercolor, pen and India ink on paper
    25¾ x 19 7/8 in. (65.4 x 40.4 cm.)
    Executed in 1943


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    The raven-haired and dark-eyed woman in this powerful drawing is immediately recognizable as Dora Maar, Picasso's lover since 1936. In the fall of the previous year, at the Café Deux Magots, she made her famously unforgettable debut impression on Picasso by quickly poking a knife into the table between the spread fingers of her hand, nicking the flesh and drawing blood. The deepening intimacy of their liaison coincided with the Fascist uprising and ensuing Civil War in Spain; in fact, the entire history of their relationship, which lasted until 1944, was tragically and inescapably set against the backdrop of violence and war.

    Picasso's earliest portraits of Dora, while he was becoming familiar with her features, were naturalistic and flattering. Brigitte Léal has described Dora as having the "face of an Oriental idol, with its marked iconic character, impenetrable, hard, and unsmiling, and whose haughty beauty is enhanced by makeup and sophisticated finery" (in Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 387). Indeed, the ornate broach at the collar of her dress featured in the present work appears to have been a favorite type of decoration (see fig. 1). Dora's mysteriously intense but inscrutably impassive visage seemed to reflect the ominous and troubled mood in Europe during the increasingly violent years that preceded the Second World War. However, as John Richardson has pointed out: "After World War II broke out, Picasso came to portray Dora more and more frequently as a sacrificial victim, a tearful symbol of his own pain and grief at the horrors of tyranny and war" (in "Pablo Picasso's Femme au chapeau de paille," Christie's, New York, sale catalogue, 4 May 2004, p. 113).

    It was in May 1943, shortly after the execution of the present work, that Picasso met Françoise Gilot, a young painter, in the restaurant Le Catalan on the Rue des Grands-Augustins, down the street from the artist's studio. He invited her and a girlfriend to his studio, and they showed up at the beginning of the following week. She returned many times thereafter, and by the end of the year she was appearing in his drawings. During this time Picasso maintained his relationship with Dora Maar, and also continued to see his previous mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter and their daughter Maya.

    (fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar, Boisgeloup, March 1936. Picasso Archives, Musée Picasso, Paris. BARCODE 25012972

    Special Notice

    On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.


    Provenance

    Jacqueline Picasso.
    Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (by 1981).
    Private collection, New York.
    Arnold Herstand & Company, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the late owner, October 1989.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM AN AMERICAN ESTATE


    Literature

    C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1962, vol. 13, no. 2 (illustrated, pl. 2).
    The Picasso Projects, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: Nazi Occupation 1940-1944, San Francisco, 1999, p. 220, no. 43-125 (illustrated).


    Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Louise, Picasso dessins et gouaches, 1899-1972, October-November 1981, no. 18.