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

Homme au mouton, nu et musicien

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Homme au mouton, nu et musicien
signed, dated and numbered '7.1.67. III Picasso' (upper right)
coloured crayon on paper
19 ½ x 23 ¾ in. (49.5 x 60.5 cm.)
Executed on 7 January 1967
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
Galleria La Bussola, Turin.
Acquired from the above by the present owner on 28 December 1974.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. XXV, Œuvres de 1965 à 1967, Paris, 1972, no. 262, pl. 120 (illustrated).
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Annie Wallington

Lot Essay

‘You are in every way a pure Mediterraneanist, a relative of Ulysses, terrible in cunning.’ (E. d’Ors, ‘Open Letter to Picasso’, 1936, in J. Richardson, exh. cat., Picasso: The Mediterranean Years, 1945-1962, New York, 2010, p. 11).

Composed within the idyllic surroundings of southern France that Picasso made his home after the Second World War, Homme au mouton, nu et musicien presents a Mediterranean arcadia, drawing on iconic motifs from throughout the artist’s long career. Like Titian, Rembrandt, Matisse or de Kooning, in the final years of his career Picasso had a great flourishing of artistic activity, during which he produced an astonishing number of paintings and drawings, driven by an unstoppable urge to create. Here, Picasso contemplates this eternal lineage of artistic creation, plundering the endless depths of history of art and asserting his presence within that canon.

Homme au mouton, nu et musicien comes within a series of works on paper that depict and reconfigure three protagonists; the voluptuous female nude to the left, who is being softly serenaded by a bearded, flute-player at the centre, confronted by a man carrying a sheep from the right. These characters have a distinct resonance within the artist’s personal lexicon of mythological and historical signs and symbols, immersed in a bucolic, classical idyll.

The unmistakable, hieratic profile of the seated nude in the present work– her large, almond-shaped eyes and flowing dark hair – can only be that of one woman: Jacqueline Roque whom Picasso would marry on 2 March 1961, less than one month after the present work was created. Jacqueline would become Picasso’s final lover, wife, muse, model and companion, and from her first appearance in Picasso’s work in 1954, her image permeated every aspect of his art until his death in 1973. Hélène Parmelin, a writer and friend of the artist, recalled, she ‘peoples Notre Dame-de-Vie with a hundred thousand possibilities… She takes the place of all the models of all the painters on all the canvases. All the portraits are like her, even if they are not like each other. All the heads are hers and there are a thousand different ones. All the eyes are black, all the breasts are rounded… She is that enormous nude or that delicate one, that epitome of woman or that long exposition of femininity. She is sitting, lying, standing, everywhere. She is dreaming, thinking, playing… The enormous vitality of the painter feeds on this face which is itself painting, and vice versa’ (H. Parmelin, Picasso Says…, London, 1966, p. 68). Picasso did not need to paint Jacqueline directly from life, instead her image was indelibly imprinted in his mind, and with her constant presence beside him her image flooded his works on paper and canvases. Termed by John Richardson as ‘L’Époque Jacqueline’, it is this period that immortalises her presence in the artist’s life.

Picasso famously believed that Jacqueline’s profile resembled the rightmost model from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ masterpiece Les femmes d’Alger, and proceeded to appropriate its imagery in a series of significant works during the mid-1950s, shortly after their courtship began. He would furthermore appropriate Ingres’ seminal work Le bain turc which is referenced here in the nude to the left, whose necklace echoes those of Ingres' odalisques, her seductively red-painted fingernails touching her clavicle as her voluptuous body remains exposed. There is an inescapable sense of eroticism in these gestures, as is customary of Picasso’s late work. Her heavily-worked face is replicated in coloured lines, suggesting the pertinence of her profile, the recurring memory of her face, and furthermore, harking back to Picasso’s own iconic harem scene, albeit of a very different kind, Les demoiselles d’Avignon from that crucial year of 1907; his cubist origins evident here in evoking the mask or visage.

In Homme au mouton, nu et musicien, the figure of Jacqueline thus assumes the figure of ancient goddess, or perhaps the nymph, serenaded by the melodious music of the flute-playing figure of Pan, the god of shepherds, hunters, meadows and forests, whose home was Arcadia and who was known for his potent virility. This mythological male figure had often appeared throughout the artist’s career, particularly following the Second World War. Returning to the south of France, it was in Antibes that Picasso first began to conjure an idyllic, mythological world, depicting images of dancing satyrs, pipe-playing fauns, nymphs and centaurs. ‘It’s strange,’ Picasso mused at the time, ‘in Paris, I never draw fauns, centaurs or heroes from mythology… it’s as if they live only here’ (Picasso, quoted in M. McCully, ‘Painter and Sculptor in Clay’, in exh. cat, Picasso Painter and Sculptor in Clay, London, 1998, p. 28).

The figure that completes Picasso’s trifecta comes in the guise of the man carrying a sheep form the right. This figure immediately evokes the image of one of Picasso’s best-known sculptures, Homme au mouton, first sculpted in 1943 during the darkest period of the wartime Occupation of Paris (Spies, no. 280). In October 1950 a bronze cast of Homme au mouton was unveiled in the central square of Vallauris, during a ceremony in which Picasso was made an honorary citizen of the town. When the wartime Homme au mouton was first exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in October 1944, shortly after the liberation of Paris, it appeared to call for a return to compassion and the nurturing spirit of humanism, and for many viewers this sculpture served as a powerful symbol of optimism and hope for the post-war future. Picasso, however, was perhaps being deliberately ambiguous, and he does not outwardly reveal the true nature of the man's purpose, and the act that is about to unfold. As in the classical convention of this subject, the man in his sculpture is actually delivering up the animal for ritual sacrifice. As Werner Spies has noted, the theme would seem to allude not least of all to the motif of the Good Shepherd, yet we must be careful with this simple interpretation' (exh. cat., op. cit., 2000, p. 236). In Homme au mouton, nu et musician, and in the subsequent 1961 sheet metal sculpture of Homme au mouton (Spies, no. 602) that Picasso made shortly afterward, the man carries the sheep over his shoulders, behind his head, rather than carrying it in front of him. The head of the animal appears to move rapidly; drawn, rubbed out and redrawn with varied expressions suggesting struggle and pain, the man seeming to offer the animal to his goddess as the archetypal provider or a sign of worship, a sacrifice in reverence to her divinity. Picasso surely identified himself with the figure of the shepherd in each iteration of Homme au mouton. Albert Elsen believed that the 1943 sculpture 'permitted Picasso to covertly express two simultaneous and contradictory tendencies in his own being: the needs to love and to destroy' ('Picasso's Man with a Sheep' in Art International, Lugano, vol. XXI, no. 2, March-April 1977, p. 14).

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