Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
The James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

La Madone à la guirlande

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
La Madone à la guirlande
signed 'Picasso' (lower right)
gouache and watercolor on paper
24 ¾ x 19 in. (63 x 48.1 cm.)
Painted in 1904
Max Pellequer, Paris (by 1931 and then by descent, until at least February 1989).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 28 November 1989, lot 48.
David Tunkl Fine Art, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 8 February 2001.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1932, vol. 1, no. 229 (illustrated prior to signature, pl. 101).
P. Daix and G. Boudaille, Picasso: The Blue and Rose Periods, A Catalogue Raisonné, 1900-1906, Neuchâtel, 1966, p. 247, no. XI.20 (illustrated prior to signature).
P. Lecaldano, Picasso: Blue and Rose Period, New York, 1971, p. 97, no. 129 (illustrated prior to signature; titled Mother and Child Adorned with Garlands).
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso: The Early Years, 1881-1907, New York, 1981, p. 544, no. 990 (illustrated in color prior to signature, p. 382).
J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, 1881-1901, New York, 1991, vol. I, p. 306 (illustrated; titled Virgin and Child).
B. Léal, C. Piot and M.-L Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 504, no. 124 (illustrated, p. 66).
C. Palermo, Modernism and Authority: Picasso and His Milieu Around 1900, Oakland, 2015, pp. 150-151 (illustrated, p. 151, fig. 12).
London, The Lefevre Galleries (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), Thirty Years of Pablo Picasso, June 1931, no. 4 (titled La Vierge de Tolède and dated 1903-1904).
Sale room notice
Please note that this painting has been requested by the Art Gallery of Ontario and The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., for their exhibition Rediscovering Picasso: Paris/Barcelona and the Blue Period which will be shown June 27–September 20, 2020, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and October 24, 2020–January 24, 2021, at The Phillips Collection.

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Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

Rendered in delicate veils of gouache and watercolor, this poignantly poetic Madone bears quiet witness to a moment of profound transition for Picasso. In April 1904, the 23-year old artist, who had already paid three visits to Paris, left Barcelona and settled again in the French capital, this time for good. He rented a studio at 13, rue Ravignan, in a dilapidated artist’s building nicknamed the Bateau-Lavoir after its resemblance to a rickety laundry barge. Determined to make this stay in Paris a success, Picasso found new friends outside his accustomed circle of Catalan transplants, especially the poets Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, and André Salmon, relationships that led to a broadening of his intellectual interests and served to deepen his engagement with the cosmopolitan French culture in which he had chosen to live and work.
Although Picasso remained a typically penniless bohemian artist, he had reason to feel hopeful—and little by little, during the summer and fall of 1904, the blue light that had long pervaded his work began to lose its chill. In the present painting, the mother-and-child grouping stands out luminous and golden against the atmospheric, indigo ground, the titular garland enveloping the pair as though holding the darkness at bay. Since his first, powerfully affecting visit to the Saint-Lazare women’s prison in autumn 1901, Picasso had repeatedly painted indigent, alienated young mothers with their ill-fated infants asleep in their arms. Here, by contrast, he captured the joys rather than the struggles of motherhood. The figures are unified by their shared gaze and interlocking gestures, creating an intimate, deeply human vision of maternal love that evokes Raphael’s treatment of the Madonna and Child.
As ambitious and industrious as he was during these years, Picasso always made time for romance. Soon after arriving in Paris, he began a relationship with a young woman named Madeleine, whose bird-like features and waifish physique recur in his work through the next spring. He had flings with two sulky-looking gamines—Margot Luc, whose father Frédé owned the Lapin Agile, and Alice Géry, who would later marry André Derain—and he met his first real love, Fernande Olivier, in August 1904. Around this time, Madeleine found herself pregnant with Picasso’s child, an experience that deeply affected the artist—she did not carry to term. “An unusually tender and seraphic Virgin and Child”—the present painting—“may have been done in the spirit of what-might-have-been,” John Richardson wrote. “Picasso would always be torn between longing to have children and exasperation at the responsibilities” (op. cit., 1991, p. 306).

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