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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
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Property from an Important Private French Collection
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Le Fou

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Le Fou
signed 'PICASSO' (on the back)
bronze with dark brown patina
Height: 16 ¼ in. (41 cm.)
Conceived in 1905 and cast by 1939
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Madame Claude Descamps (née Jenny Béghin), Paris; sale, Piasa, Paris, 12 December 1997, lot N.
Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owner.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1932, vol. 1, no. 322 (another cast illustrated, pl. 148).
J. Cassou, Picasso, New York, 1940, p. 158 (another illustrated).
U.E. Johnson, Ambroise Vollard Editeur, New York, 1944, p. 114, no. 124.
A.H. Barr, Jr., Picasso: Fifty Years of his Art, New York, 1946, pp. 38 and 277, no. 206 (another cast illustrated; titled Harlequin).
D.H. Kahnweiler, The Sculptures of Picasso, London, 1949, no. 2 (another cast illustrated).
G.C. Argan, Scultura di Picasso, Venice, 1953 (another cast illustrated, pl. IV ).
W. Boeck and J. Sabartés, Picasso, New York, 1955, p. 460, no. 32 (another cast illustrated).
R. Penrose, Picasso, Amsterdam, 1961, no. 2 (another cast illustrated; titled Tête de bouffon).
R. Penrose, Picasso Sculpture, New York, 1965 (another cast illustrated, pl. 2).
M. de Micheli, Picasso, New York, 1967, p. 33 (another cast illustrated, p. 9).
R. Penrose, The Sculpture of Picasso, 1967, pp. 17, 26, 41 and 221, no. 5 (another cast illustrated, p. 52).
J. Leymarie, Picasso: The Artist of the Century, Geneva, 1971, pp. 26 and 292 (another cast illustrated, p. 26; titled Head of a Jester).
W. Spies, Sculpture by Picasso, with a Catalogue of the Works, New York, 1971, pp. 17-18, no. 4 (another cast illustrated).
F. Elgar and R. Maillard, Picasso, New York, 1972, p. 35, no. 26 (another cast illustrated; titled Head of a Jester).
R. Penrose and J. Golding, Picasso in Retrospect, New York, 1973, no. 206 (another cast illustrated).
R. Johnson, The Early Sculpture of Picasso, 1901-1914, New York, 1976, p. 165, no. 6 (other casts illustrated, p. 202).
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso: The Early Years, 1881-1907, New York, 1981, p. 407, no. 1091 (another cast illustrated).
W. Spies, Picasso, Das plastische Werk, Berlin, 1983, pp. 326 and 372, no. 4 (another cast illustrated).
M.L. Besnard-Bernadac, M. Richet and H. Seckel, The Picasso Museum, Paris: Paintings, Papiers collés, Picture reliefs, Sculptures, and Ceramics, New York, 1985, p. 150, no. 272 (another cast illustrated).
P. Lecaldano, Picasso: Blue and Rose Periods, New York, 1987, no. 175 A (another cast illustrated).
J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Early Years, 1881-1906, New York, 1991, vol. I, p. 348 (another cast illustrated).
B. Leal, C. Piot and M.-L. Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, pp. 85 and 505, no. 175 (another cast illustrated, p. 84).
W. Spies and C. Piot, Picasso: Sculpteur, Paris, 2000, p. 394, no. 4 (other casts illustrated, pp. 27 and 346).
D. Widmayer-Picasso, 'Vollard and the Sculptures of Picasso' in Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde, exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006, pp. 182-188 and 392, no. 161 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 183, fig. 194; another cast illustrated, p. 392).
Picasso: Sculpture, exh. cat. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2015, pp. 39-41, no. 3 (other casts illustrated in color, pp. 46-47).
Sale Room Notice
Please note the additional literature:
D. Widmayer-Picasso, 'Vollard and the Sculptures of Picasso' in Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde, exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006, pp. 182-188 and 392, no. 161 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 183, fig. 194; another cast illustrated, p. 392).

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Late one evening in spring 1905, after attending the Cirque Médrano with the poet Max Jacob, Picasso returned to his studio at the Bateau Lavoir—or perhaps went to visit his friend Paco Durrio, whose workshop was better outfitted for sculpting—and began to model a likeness of Jacob in clay. Along with Apollinaire and André Salmon, Jacob had been Picasso’s constant companion since the artist’s definitive move to Paris the previous year. “Max, who’s so witty and amusing, is our master of ceremonies,” wrote Fernande Olivier. “Picasso and Guillaume [Apollinaire] could laugh all night long at Max’s improvisations and stories, his songs, and the faces he pulls” (Loving Picasso, New York, 2001, pp. 164-165). The clay rapidly took on Jacob’s appearance—so Picasso later recalled—but the next day, he continued to work on the sculpture until only the lower part retained an evident likeness. As the realistic resemblance faded, Picasso crowned the head with a regal jester’s cap, transforming it into a deeper, more symbolic portrait—Le Fou.
In its final form, Le Fou is the three-dimensional embodiment of the theme of the saltimbanque or itinerant circus performer, which preoccupied Picasso in his contemporaneous Rose Period painting. Proxies for the artist and his bohemian circle, these vagabond entertainers occupied the shadowy margins of mainstream society, their mythic outsider status evoking creative genius and alienated melancholy in the fin-de-siècle imagination. In Picasso’s dramatis personae of 1905, three different saltimbanques wear a jester’s cap: a slender young acrobat (Zervos, vol. 1, nos. 293 and 301), a bearded hurdy-gurdy player (vol. 6, no. 798), and the potbellied paterfamilias in Les Bateleurs, the culminating canvas on this poetically expressive theme (vol. 1, no. 285).
In Le Fou, Picasso exploited the distinctive form of the cap as an autonomous plastic volume, comprised of a large, central triangle surrounded by lower, smaller peaks that bend outward like the petals of a flower. The rough, expressive surface modulation—indebted to Rodin, who had a retrospective in spring 1905 at the Musée du Luxembourg—contrasts with the geometric structure of the fool’s crown. “Sculpture now became an increasingly important aid in Picasso’s artistic exploration,” Marilyn McCully has written. “It allowed him to experiment both with the surface and with the balance of substance and illusion in three-dimensional form” (Picasso in Paris, 1900-1907, exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2011, p. 177).
In spring 1910, Ambroise Vollard purchased Le Fou from Picasso, along with three other Rose Period sculptures and the artist’s recent cubist head of Fernande (Spies, nos. 6-7, 9, and 24). During the ensuing three decades, until his death in 1939, Vollard issued small editions in bronze of these sculptures, using several different foundries. His practice was to keep an example of each work in his shop at 6, rue Laffitte and to order a cast when a collector or dealer requested one; the casts vary in patination and bear no number or foundry mark.

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