Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
By the early 1950s Picasso had become deeply engrossed in domestic family life. He and Françoise Gilot, a young painter whom the artist met in 1943, began to live together in April 1946. Later that year they moved from Paris to the Midi, settling first in Golfe-Juan, and in 1948 they bought the villa 'La Galloise', situated in the hills overlooking Vallauris. Their son Claude was born in May 1947, and their daughter Paloma arrived less than two years later. The wide eyes and chignon of Tête de femme au chignon clearly identify the work as a loving portrait of Françoise.
The renewed contact with the sun, sand and light of the Mediterranean ushered in a new phase for the artist. While there, he was introduced to Suzanne and Georges Ramié, artisans who were trying to revive the ancient pottery industry in the town of Vallauris, one of many efforts at the time to restore France’s wounded national pride in the aftermath of the war. Through the Ramiés at their Madoura pottery, Picasso had space, supplies and skilled ceramicists at his disposal to push the boundaries of what could be created with clay and terracotta.
Whilst Picasso’s time at Madoura led to a large body of ceramic work, it also led to a series of small scale sculptures, subsequently cast by Godard in very small edition sizes, typically only two casts. Many of these sculptures are quite rudimentary faces, fauns or animals, created by Picasso rolling, stretching, and pinching pliant clay in the free-spirited way a child might play with putty - the limbs of animals are clay rolled between the palms of his hands, or simple facial features are marked with his penknife.
However, whilst created with the most basic of tools, Tête de femme au chignon is a more sophisticated work, and a comparison of the bronze to a photograph of Françoise at the time demonstrates Picasso’s complete mastery of the medium. Picasso has modelled the angular neck and facial planes by slicing small layers from the rounded clay surface, whilst leaving rounded aspects to create the softening of the cheek-bones. Skilful application of a sharp point creates the iconic eyes of Françoise and the texture of her hair.