Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Figure (Paulo en costume d'Arlequin)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Figure (Paulo en costume d'Arlequin)
dated '20 Novembre 1926' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
9 3/8 x 6 3/8 in. (23.9 x 16.1 cm.)
painted on 20 November 1926
Estate of the artist.
Marina Picasso (by descent from the above).
Jan Krugier, acquired from the above.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1957, vol. 8, no. 242 (illustrated, pl. 112; incorrectly dated).
D.D. Duncan, Picasso's Picassos: The Treasures of La Californie, London, 1961, p. 211 (illustrated).
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture: Toward Surrealism, 1925-1929, San Francisco, 1996, p. 74, no. 26-094 (illustrated; titled Visage).
J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, New York, 2007, p. 591 (illustrated in color).
Miami, Center for the Fine Arts, Picasso at Work at Home: Selections from the Marina Picasso Collection, November 1985-March 1986, p. 65, no. 52 (illustrated; titled Head of a Young Boy II).
Yamanashi, Kiyoharu-Shirakaba Museum of Art; Shimonoseki City Art Museum; Osaka, Daimaru Umeda; Himeji Municipal Art Museum; Fukuoka Municipal Art Museum; Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art; Kagoshima Prefectural Museum of Art; Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art; Tokyo, Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi and Kagawa Prefectural Cultural Center, Pablo Picasso: Collection de Marina Picasso, November 1986-October 1987, p. 131, no. PM-7 (illustrated, p. 45; titled Composition "tête").
New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Picasso "Petits Formats": Works From the Marina Picasso Collection, May-June 1989, no. 12 (titled Composition tête).

Lot Essay

The mid-1920s witnessed a profound reorientation in both Picasso's personal and professional life. His relationship with his wife Olga Khokhlova, the mother of his young son Paulo, had deteriorated beyond repair. In 1927 Picasso initiated an affair with Marie-Thérèse Walter, a girl still in her teens. At the same time, Picasso began to distance himself from the core of people who had supported his post-war Neoclassicism, most notably Jean Cocteau. Instead, André Breton and the burgeoning Surrealist circle became increasingly important to him. Despite his reluctance to become an active participant in the movement, the psychic power of Surrealism, with its violent and subversive tendencies, offered Picasso a means of rejuvenating his subject matter and renewing his place in the avant-garde. Michael FitzGerald has written, "As if darkly mirroring the consonance of Picasso's Neoclassicism with the early years of his marriage to Olga, his immersion in Surrealism corresponded to the dissonance of their subsequent relationship" (Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 324).

In June 1926, Paul Rosenberg mounted a major exhibition of fifty-eight paintings by Picasso, which showcased his newest surrealist departures. Immediately after it closed, Picasso began a powerful series of bifurcated heads with aggressively relocated features that preoccupied him through the end of the year. In the present example, the streaks and splotches of vivid color create the impression of tribal war-paint, while the eye is rendered as a vertical slit. This split face imagery highlights Picasso's fascination with African and other primitive masks and incorporation of this imagery into his art at this time (fig. 1). John Richardson has identified the image as Paulo decked out as Harlequin for a costume party (op. cit., 2007, p. 312). However, neither Harlequin's tricorn hat nor his distinctive diamond-patterned costume appears, as they will in several heads from early 1927 (Zervos, vol. 7, nos. 69-70, 73-74, 80). More likely, the present painting depicts the same young girl who features in several drawings from 1926, her face broad and rounded and her hair, as here, parted in the middle and falling behind her ears (see especially Zervos, vol. 7, no. 7). Perhaps, as Richardson has suggested, she is an unidentified mistress, installed for the summer near Picasso's rented villa at Juan-les-Pins, who presaged the eventual appearance of Marie-Thérèse in Picasso's dramatis personae of the late 1920s.

(fig. 1) Mask, Kwakiutl, British Columbia. Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin. BARCODE: 28859017.

More from A Dialogue Through Art: Works from the Jan Krugier Collection Evening Sale

View All
View All