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

Tête de femme

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête de femme
signed, dated and numbered 'Picasso 16.12.40 I.' (upper left)
pencil on paper
16 x 12 in. (40.6 x 30.4 cm.)
Drawn on 16 December 1940
Riccardo Jucker, Milan (by 1974).
Private collection, Milan (acquired from the above, circa 1985).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Milan, Palazzo Reale, La ricerca dell'identità, November 1974-January 1975, no. 94 (illustrated; dated 1940).
Sale room notice
Please note that Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work and suggested that the correct date of this work is 16 December 1941, and not as stated in the catalogue.

Lot Essay

Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work and suggested that the correct date of this work is 16 December 1941, and not as stated in the catalogue.

Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

This is the wartime face of Dora Maar. We know this face all too well, on the walls of exhibitions and in museums, to the point her mysteriously inscrutable visage may have become almost too familiar, like another reproduction of Guernica, and no longer moves us in the way it did at first sight--except perhaps as the Weeping Woman, La femme qui pleure, also seen in this catalogue, which is an image one can never put far enough out of mind because...she is us.

This magnificent drawing--truly an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime drawing--is the real face of Dora Maar. The signal features we know are all here, as if sculpted in powerful relief--the nose that Picasso claimed his Afghan hound Kasbek inspired him to foist upon her, the thick shoulder length hair, the painfully plucked eyebrows like wounds sewn shut, eyes like smoldering coals. The eyelashes...those lips...

Here is Dora in black-and-white. In the concentrated monotone of dark, silvery graphite, Dora's qualities manifest themselves even more strikingly than in color.

Dora, we learn here, does not need the color or impasto of oil paints, which elsewhere may distract us from how stunningly handsome, how maturely serious and magnetic this woman must have been, part Croatian, part French, having lived in Argentina, possessing the "face of an Oriental idol, with its marked iconic character, impenetrable, hard, and unsmiling," as Brigitte Léal has described her, "and whose haughty beauty is enhanced by makeup and sophisticated finery" (Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 387). The makeup--her fondness for mascara--is clearly apparent. And her finery? Unadorned, simply attired, she holds her own and looks smashing, so much the better sans chapeau, without those bizarre little surrealist hats Picasso loved to invent for her.

This is the face of brave, courageous Dora. The Nazis were everywhere--they've beaten France, paraded down the Champs Elysées, they've overrun her native Yugoslavia, and would dominate and enslave nearly all the rest of Europe as well. They're watching Picasso's studio, hoping to catch the Jewish sculptor Lipchitz (who's already escaped to America). They've already broken down Picasso's door, rushed in and kicked around the contents of this studio. There are rumors making the rounds that Dora is part Jewish. French police have arrested more than 3,000 foreign-born Jews living around Paris; raids in the 11th arrondissement have netted 4,300 more, including 1,300 French citizens, all of whom were packed off to Drancy. Within a year internment camps in the occupied zone will hold more than 30,000 Jews...we know the tragic end of this story.

Picasso has heard reports that Franco's fascist thugs are active in Paris, forcibly repatriating wanted Spanish Republican exiles for a certain death sentence or life at hard labor. As the titular director of the Prado under the deposed Republican government, Picasso has been formally accused of looting the nation's cultural patrimony, under the guise of authorizing protective custody of Spanish art masterpieces abroad. Things were going badly for the Allies. If one believed in eventual liberation from the Occupation, there was then only the slenderest of hopes this might eventually come to pass, and certainly no time soon.

This is the beautiful face of Dora--fearful, perhaps even close to tears. "I don't move," she described posing in bed for L'Aubade, Picasso's war-time masterpiece. "Oppressed by solitude, the thing was to imagine love. Time the silence I despair... but let's leave all that" (in Picasso, Life with Dora Maar: Love and War, 1935-1945, exh. cat., National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2006, p. 235). This is the face of Dora, inwardly strong, resilient--she'll go on...

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