Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Property of a Private Palm Beach Collection
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Grand vase aux femmes nues

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Grand vase aux femmes nues
signed 'Picasso' and with the 'EDITION PICASSO' and 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' pottery stamps (on the interior)
painted and incised terracotta
Height: 26½ in. (66 cm.)
Executed in 1950 apart from the edition of 25
Arthur Rubinstein, Geneva (gift from the artist, 1950).
Dr. Alina Rubinstein, New York (by descent from the above, 1982); sale, Christie's, New York, 6 November 2002, lot 325.
Howard Russeck Fine Art, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
G. Bloch, Pablo Picasso, Catalogue de l'oeuvre gravé céramique 1949-1971, Bern, 1972, vol. III, no. 20 (example from the edition illustrated).
G. Ramié, Picasso's Ceramics, Barcelona, 1974, p. 291, no. 689 (example from the edition illustrated).
A. Ramié, Picasso Catalogue of the edited works 1947-1971, Vallauris, 1988, p. 65, no. 115 (example from the edition illustrated, pp. 13 and 16; other examples from the edition illustrated in color, pp. 64-65).
Sale room notice
Please note the correct medium of the present lot is painted and incised terracotta.

Brought to you by

David Kleiweg de Zwaan
David Kleiweg de Zwaan

Lot Essay

The present work is unique in the Grand Vase aux Femmes Nues series; Picasso specially ordered this example outside the edition of 25 and duly signed it before gifting to his friend, the famed pianist, Arthur Rubinstein.

In 1914, at the outset of World War I, Rubinstein left Paris for Spain. For several tumultuous years prior, recognition from his audience had been dazzling but brief, punctuated by periods of moral and financial destitution. The trip to Spain marked a turning point in the pianist's career, finally winning an enthusiastic following there, fascinated by the energy and passion he put into Classical music. His charismatic virtuosity quickly large crowds of followers, charmed by this prodigy who described his own life as an unbalanced combination of wine, women, and song.

Acknowledging a similar lifestyle, Pablo Picasso became acquainted with Rubinstein in the late 1910s. After drawing a first portrait of the pianist, which was destroyed during the Second World War, Picasso executed several more in 1958 in Vallauris (fig. 1) and gave the musician four of them. The sittings in the studio were the occasion for Rubinstein to discover the Spanish master's work in ceramics, his attention being immediately drawn to an example of Grand Vase aux Femmes Nues, executed earlier that same year. Rubinstein later recalled: "I fell in love with a tall vase; he has decorated it with beautiful nudes in the noble classical style...When I offered to buy it, I was told that it was limited to twenty examples and they were all sold...What a surprise when I received this beautiful vase duly signed by him a few weeks after" (My Many Years, New York, 1980, vol. II, p. 568). This special gift remained in the Rubinstein family for over forty years.

Ceramics played a fundamental part in Picasso's career, from his first experiments in 1947 until his death almost thirty years later. Appreciated by the artist as a creative medium in its own right, he explored the play offered between line and form, between two and three dimensions. The present work is a remarkable example of this artistic research. The curves of the vase follow and emphasize the feminine lines of the bodies--probably inspired by the artist's then-companion Françoise Gilot. While the shade and softness of terracotta simulate the look and touch of bare skin.

(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Arthur Rubinstein, 19 July 1958 (Zervos, vol. 18, no. 295).

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