PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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 THE BERGGRUEN FAMILY COLLECTION
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Tête de femme

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Tête de femme
signed and dated 'Picasso 21' (upper left)
oil on canvas
7 3/8 x 6 1/4 in. (18.6 x 16 cm.)
Painted in Fontainebleau in Summer 1921
Galerie Flechtheim, Berlin.
Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris, by between June 1927 and January 1928 (no. 4408).
Griebert, Germany.
Heinz Berggruen, Berlin & Paris, by whom acquired from the above in 1976, and thence by descent to the present owners.
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. IV, Œuvres de 1920 à 1922, Paris, 1951, no. 351 (illustrated pl. 140).
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso: From the Ballets to Drama, 1917-1926, Barcelona, 1999, no. 1118, pp. 301 & 512 (illustrated p. 301; titled 'Head of a Woman, Looking Downwards').
H.J. Papies, K. Zacharias & E. Morawietz, eds., Museum Berggruen, Berlin, 2013, pp. 116 & 464 (illustrated p. 117; with incorrect medium).
Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Berggruen Collection, June - October 1988, no. 84, p. 208 (illustrated p. 209).
Paris, Musée National Picasso, Picasso / Berggruen: Une collection particulière, September 2006 - January 2007, p. 117 (illustrated).
Berlin, Museum Berggruen, on long term loan from 2003 until 2022.
Rome, Scuderie del Quirinale, Picasso Between Cubism and Classicism: 1915-1925, September 2017 - January 2018, no. 164, p. 229 (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.
Sale room notice
Christie's has provided a minimum price guarantee and has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold. See the Important Notices in the Conditions of Sale for more information.

Please note that the estimate for the lot is £1,000,000-1,500,000, and not as printed in the catalogue.

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Lot Essay

Pablo Picasso made this statement in 1923, in the midst of his radical Neo-Classical period. Fusing a host of artistic sources and styles that spanned everything from Ancient Greek statuary to the art of French masters, Nicolas Poussin and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Picasso forged his own, distinctly novel idiom. Far from being a retrograde or atavistic reembrace of historical sources however, his plunder of the past enabled him to remain firmly at the forefront of the post-war avant-garde.
Painted in the summer of 1921, Tête de femme is one of the group of classically-inspired goddesses that dominated Picasso’s work at this time. These highly sculptural, rotund Neo-Classical figures had emerged in his art the year prior, and proliferated during the artist’s summertime sojourn in Fontainebleau, the picturesque wooded town and former royal residence south of Paris. Often regarded as the apogee of Picasso’s Neo-Classicism, this trip saw Picasso create a sequence of striking female heads in both pastel and oil, such as the present work.
For his family’s annual summer retreat of 1921, Picasso had initially wanted to return to the Mediterranean coast, where he and his Russian ballet dancer wife, Olga, had holidayed the previous year. In February, Olga had given birth to the couple’s first child, a son, Paulo. Keen to remain in close proximity to Paris and avoid the intense heat and social whirl of the Riviera, she wanted to stay somewhere nearby. Picasso acquiesced and the couple rented a large house at 33, boulevard Gambetta in Fontainebleau, the idyllic town beloved by Parisians for its pleasant summer climate.
Picasso and his family arrived there in late June. The artist quickly turned an adjacent carriage house into a makeshift studio. He then embarked upon a productive painter’s holiday; as John Richardson has written, ‘Picasso spent the next three months turning out a succession of masterpieces – far more than he had done in the previous six months in Paris. Now that the baby had eclipsed him as the main focus of the household, he preferred to shut himself away in the garage and wrestle with Classicism’ (A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years 1917-1932, New York, 2007, p. 190).
Through a gate at the end of the garden, Picasso could enter the grounds of the Château de Fontainebleau – the former royal palace of French monarchs. Its extensive, verdant gardens, filled with the fountains after which the town was named, featured a number of stone carvings and decorations by Francesco Primaticcio and Rosso Fiorentino, and most importantly, mannerist sculptures by Jean Goujon. These sources, together with a concurrent exhibition of sixteenth-century School of Fontainebleau drawings that was open in the château’s Jeu de Paume, fed Picasso’s imagination.
In addition to maternity scenes inspired by his new role as a father, Picasso painted a series of classically-influenced nudes and bathers, of which the large, final Trois femmes à la fontaine (Zervos, vol. 4, no. 322; The Museum of Modern Art, New York) was the culminating work. Belonging to this important series is Tête de femme. With these works, Picasso conceived a new pictorial idiom for the female figure. Whether draped or nude, these figures have the sculptural solidity and idealized features of ancient statuary. Their coiffure, parted in the middle and gently waved, is that of classical goddesses. Pictured as if carved from stone, though painted with black, white and a warm terracotta palette redolent of ancient Greece, these women appear overtly volumetric, monumental and solid. Picasso’s Neo-Classicism is defined by these paradoxical aesthetics, as he created images at once timeless and yet unequivocally modern.
The artist’s wife, Olga, posed with a number of these heads in a photograph taken in Picasso’s Fontainebleau studio. With her head downturned, Olga's classic profile and dark features bear an unmistakable likeness to the portrait heads behind her, yet yet their exaggerated features bear nothing in common with her petite frame. Yet, it is Olga whose presence precipitated Picasso’s Neo-Classical period, her image and character – supposedly coolly refined and reserved – infusing the artist’s depiction of female figures throughout these years. Whether conscious or unconscious on the part of the artist, this photograph makes it evident that there was an aesthetic link between these heads and the artist’s wife.
Together with the inspiration that the treasures of the château offered Picasso, these grandly hieratic and solidly volumetric figures stemmed from a wide variety of sources. The stately portraits of Ingres, the late nudes of Renoir (of which Picasso owned an example, acquired from his dealer Paul Rosenberg), and the Greco-Roman sculpture which the artist had seen in Italy, as well as the work of Puvis de Chavannes, all played a part in Picasso’s classical idiom. Yet, as he played with such imagery, reconfiguring them with a monumentality, simplicity and a powerful sense of proportion, Picasso created an entirely novel form of ‘Picassified’ Neo-Classicism; a compelling amalgam that set the shape-shifting artist apart from his peers.
Tête de femme was purchased by the renowned dealer and art collector Heinz Berggruen in 1976, and has remained in his personal collection for almost fifty years. Berggruen had met Picasso through the poet Tristan Tzara in 1950, and he quickly developed a deep appreciation for Picasso’s art. Over the course of his career, Berggruen acquired a large and carefully considered collection of Picasso’s work that spanned his entire oeuvre and showcased his development as an artist. As he remarked in his autobiography of 1996, Highways and Byways: ‘I have never presumed to grasp this richness [of Picasso’s work] in all its diversity. But I have, by consistently and persistently collecting Picasso’s works, attempted to create an impression of the cosmos of this man, who, like no other, carried within him the existential life-feeling (Lebensgefühl) of an entire century’ (H. Berggruen, Highways and Byways, Northamptonshire, 1998, pp. 183-184).

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