PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Tête de Minotaure aveugle

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
te de Minotaure aveugle
dated and inscribed 'Boisgeloup 23 septembre XXXIV' (lower left)
pencil on paper
20 1/4 x 13 1/2 in. (50.8 x 34.4 cm.) 
Drawn in Boisgeloup on 23 September 1934
The artist's estate.
Marina Picasso, Paris, by descent from the above.
Jan Krugier, Geneva, by whom acquired from the above in April 1989, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby's, London, 5 February 2014, lot 33.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
B. Geiser & B. Baer, Picasso: peintre-graveur, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre gravé et des monotypes, 1932-1934, vol. II, Bern, 1992, p. 309 (titled 'Tête du minotaure').
U. Weisner, ed., Picassos Surrealismus, Werke 1925-1937, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Bielefeld, 1991, no. 80a, pp. 341-342 (illustrated p. 341).
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso: From the Minotaur to Guernica, 1927-1939, Barcelona, 2011, no. 665, pp. 205 & 439 (illustrated p. 204; with incorrect medium).
New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co., The Primacy of Design: Major Drawings in Black and Colored Media from the Marina Picasso Collection, October - December 1983, no. 45, p. 96 (illustrated p. 97).
Miami, Center for the Fine Arts, Picasso at Work at Home, Selections from the Marina Picasso Collection, November 1985 - March 1986, no. 69, pp. 79 & 160 (illustrated).
Yamanashi, Musée d'Art Kiyoharu-Shirakaba, Pablo Picasso par Collection de Marina Picasso, November - December 1986, no. D-40, p. 135 (illustrated p. 92); this exhibition later travelled to Musée Municipal d'Art Shimonoséki, January - February 1987; Galerie Daimaru, March 1987; Musée Municipal d'Art Himéji, March - April 1987; Le Musée d'Art de la Préfecture Fukuoka, April - May 1987; Le Musée d'Art de la Préfecture Fukushima, May - June 1987; Musée d'Art de la Préfecture Kagoshima, June - August 1987; Musée d'Art de la Préfecture Chiba, August - September 1987; Galerie Mitsukoshi, September 1987; and Centre Culturel de la Préfecture Kagawa, September - October 1987.
Geneva, Musée Rath, Regards sur Minotaure, Revue à tête de bête, October 1987 - January 1988, no. 233 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, March - May 1988.
New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Tauromaquia: Works by Pablo Picasso, Photographs by Lucien Clergue, November - December 1991.
Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Linie, Licht und Schatten: Meisterzeichnungen und Skulpturen der Sammlung Jan und Marie-Anne Krugier Poniatowski, May - August 1999, no. 135, p. 286 (illustrated p. 287); this exhibition later travelled to Venice, Collezione Peggy Guggenheim, The Timeless Eye: Opera su carta della collezione Jan e Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, September - December 1999, no. 148, p. 310 (illustrated p. 311).
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Picasso Minotauro, October 2000 - January 2001, no. 42, p. 152 (illustrated p. 153).
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Picasso und die Schweiz, October 2001 - January 2002, no. 109, n.p. (illustrated).
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, La passion du dessin: Collection Jan et Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, March - June 2002, no. 160, p. 344 (illustrated p. 345).
Vienna, Albertina, Goya bis Picasso: Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, April - August 2005, no. 155, p. 356 (illustrated p. 357).
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso: Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, July - October 2007, no. 186, p. 388 (illustrated p. 389).
Zaragoza, Museo de Zaragoza, Goya y el mundo moderno, December 2008 - March 2009, no. 205, p. 328 (illustrated).
Special notice
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.
Further details
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

Throughout the 1930s, the Minotaur became Pablo Picasso’s most prominent alter ego. This half-man, half-beast proliferated in the artist’s painting, drawing and printmaking, serving as a vessel in which to pour his anxieties and desires during these dramatic years of both public and personal upheaval. Drawn in Boisgeloup on 23 September 1934, Tête de Minotaure aveugle was executed about a month before one of Picasso’s most important prints, Minotaure aveugle guidé par une fillette, as the artist honed in on the motif of the blind Minotaur, an expression of one of his deepest fears. As Gert Schiff has written of the present work, ‘the Blind Minotaur is Man, groping his way in the dark, and crying out the pain of his unredeemed double nature, between god and brute’ (Picasso at Work at Home (Selections from the Marina Picasso Collection), exh. cat., Center of the Arts, Miami, 1985, p. 79). This work remained in Picasso’s collection for the rest of his life, before it passed by descent to his granddaughter, Marina Picasso.

The myth of the Minotaur had become enormously popular in 1930s Paris. Thanks to Arthur Evans’ archaeological excavations of the palace of Knossos in Crete, the story of this mythological beast and his labyrinthine domain had been rediscovered at this time, embraced in part due to the defiant propagation of the ideals of Mediterranean Classicism in reaction to the wave of Fascism sweeping across Europe.

The Minotaur had also been adopted by the Surrealists, who were particularly drawn to the symbolism of this character’s defiant rebellion against the constraints of society. In 1933, a new Surrealist periodical, Minotaure, was founded and Picasso was invited to design the cover. While the Minotaur had featured in his work in passing, this commission marked the beginning of an intense and deeply personal artistic dialogue with this mythological figure. From this point onwards, the Minotaur appeared in his art in myriad ways, immersed in actions both amorous, heroic, and violent. The importance of this motif is reflected in John Richardson's fourth and final biography of the artist, which he titled A Life of Picasso IV: The Minotaur Years: 1933-1943.

Picasso’s interest in the Minotaur was based in a very personal affiliation with the Cretan legend. Picasso saw in himself the same untamable power of this beast; regarding his artistic abilities, as well as his sexual prowess, as something that existed beyond his control and consciousness. Additionally, at this time, Picasso was embroiled in a passionate affair with the young Marie-Thérèse Walter, while attempting to maintain the status-quo of his marriage to Olga Khokhlova. For Picasso, the dual nature of the Minotaur, representing human nature's conflicting impulses of instinct and reason, became symbolic of his own troubled emotions – of desire, guilt and rage. He would once describe, ‘If all the ways I have been along were marked in a map and joined up with a line, it might represent a minotaur’ (quoted in D. Ashton, Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views, New York, 1972, p. 159).

In August 1934, Picasso went to Spain for the final time. Though he was trying to divorce Olga, she accompanied him along with their son. Not long after returning to Paris, Picasso began a new theme – the blind Minotaur. This would culminate in one of his greatest and most poignant prints, Minotaure aveugle guidé par une fillette, part of the monumental commission, the Suite Vollard. Famed for his mirada fuerte, Picasso harboured fears of going blind throughout his life. He was also extremely superstitious, so for him, the motif of the blind Minotaur was a means of warding off this deep seated terror.

In this nocturnal scene, Picasso can be seen to re-interpret the myth in light of his personal circumstances, casting himself in the role of the Minotaur, who is transformed from a creature of power into a figure of pathos. Or, perhaps, Picasso has turned to the story of the mythical Greek king, Oedipus. After killing his father, and unknowingly marrying his mother, he blinded himself when he realised his incestual relations, and was led out of Thebes by his daughter, Antigone.

The features of the girl are those of Marie-Thérèse, however John Richardson has also interpreted her as Conchita, Picasso's sister who died when the artist was thirteen. The scene is witnessed by a young sailor on the left, and by two older, bearded fishermen on the right, who are hauling in a fishing net and pulling down a white sail. In the myth of the Minotaur, Theseus sails home but fails to change his ship’s black sails for white ones, the pre-arranged signal for a victorious outcome. His aged father, Aegeus, seeing the black sails and fearing the worst, casts himself to his death from a cliff in grief. Picasso’s alteration of this detail suggests an alternative outcome: of tragedy averted and hope fulfilled.

The present Tête de Minotaure aveugle is closely related to this image and was likely created in preparation for the print. The beast’s head is thrown back, as if in angry defiance or distress at his sightless condition, and his arm is outstretched, as if clutching the same stick as in Minotaure aveugle guidé par une fillette. Another work, Minotaure aveugle conduit par une petite fille, now in the Hamburger Kunstalle, was executed the day prior to the present lot, and similarly shows the Minotaur being led by a young girl.

Considered against the backdrop of the political turmoil of the 1930s, the rise of General Franco, and the subsequent outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the motif of the blind Minotaur takes on another powerful meaning, perhaps a sign of the artist’s helplessness in the face of war in his homeland. As such, these works have been interpreted as ‘stepping stones on the road to Guernica, [Picasso’s] monumental icon of the horrors of war,’ which he painted in 1937 (S. Coppel, Picasso Prints – The Vollard Suite, exh. cat., The British Museum, London, 2012, p. 169).

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