PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Femme nue couchée

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Femme nue couchée
signed, dated and numbered 'Picasso 27.12.66.IV' (upper left)
Conté crayon on paper
18 1⁄8 x 21 ½ in. (46 x 54.6 cm.)
Executed on 27 December 1966
Galerie Louise Leiris [Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler], Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Waddington Galleries, London.
Herbert Kasper, New York, by whom acquired from the above in December 1969; sale, Christie’s, New York, 13 November 2021, lot 549.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
C. Feld & R. Char, Picasso, Dessins, 27.3.66 - 15.3.68, Paris, 1969, no. 41, n.p. (illustrated n.p.; with incorrect medium).
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 25, Oeuvres de 1965 à 1967, Paris, 1972, no. 244, n.p. (illustrated pl. 115; with incorrect medium).
Bielefeld, Kunsthalle, Picasso, Letzte Bilder, Werke 1966-1972, October 1993 - January 1994, no. 43, pp. 70 & 309-310 (illustrated p. 70; with incorrect medium).
New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, Mannerism and Modernism: The Kasper Collection of Drawings and Photographs, January - May 2011, no. 48, pp. 122 & 124 (illustrated p. 127; with incorrect medium).
Sale Room Notice
Please note the medium for this lot is Conté crayon on paper and not as stated in the printed catalogue.

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Annie Wallington
Annie Wallington Head of Core Sales

Lot Essay

Pablo Picasso executed Femme nue couchée on 27 December 1966, at a time of immense productivity in his career. In a period of his oeuvre populated by the cavalcade of musketeers, scenes of female figures accompanied by painters or musicians – as seen in Le couple (Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse) – there also flowed from the artist’s hand expressive and important portraits of his iconic wife and muse, Jacqueline.

In Femme nue couchée, Picasso allows his sitter’s body to fill the entire sheet, imbuing her form with a new sense of monumentality. As Isabelle Dervaux has written, ‘the contortions of the body are not only intended to expose different parts that cannot realistically be seen at the same time, they also result from pure formal games, as in the humorous treatment of the toes, which seamlessly continue the blanket’s pattern of parallel stripes’ (Mannerism and Modernism: The Kasper Collection of Drawings and Photographs, exh. cat., New York, 2011, p. 124).

As opposed to Henri Matisse and most early twentieth century painters, Picasso rarely resorted to professional models; instead, his chief muse was always ‘the woman he loved, with whom he shared his daily life,’ explained Marie-Louise Bernadac. ‘What he painted, then, was not a model woman but the woman-as-model. This difference had consequences in both the emotional and pictorial realm, for the beloved woman is the painting, and the painted female is the beloved woman’ (‘The Painter and His Model’, in Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 440).

The present work is most likely a portrait of Picasso’s wife Jacqueline, whom the artist married in 1961. Jacqueline became a fundamental pillar in Picasso’s art: not only was she one of its leading protagonists, she consciously created a sense of sanctuary in their home, La Californie in Cannes, helping to spur his creativity and increase his productivity.

While the reclining female nude stands as one of the most enduring subjects in the history of art, in Picasso’s fabled career the theme represented a constant source of inspiration, a site for experimentation and exploration that continued across multiple stages of his artistic evolution. From the melancholic nudes of the Blue Period to the quiet romance of Marie-Thérèse and the elated gestures of eroticism of his late oeuvre, the reclining female nude remained a core fascination – which in his late work was often masterfully expressed through the elegance of a single line.

Indeed, Picasso’s depictions of women explored the many facets of expressiveness and femininity, ranging from the erotic and adored, to the fearful or aggressive. As Marie-Louise Bernadac has stated, few artists portrayed women as profusely as he did, plundering the female psyche for artistic inspiration: ‘Picasso is the painter of woman: goddess of antiquity, mother, praying mantis, blown-up balloon, weeper, hysteric, body curled in a ball or sprawled in sleep… no painter has ever gone so far unveiling the feminine universe in all the complexity of its real and fantasy life’ (M-L. Bernadac, ‘Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model’, in Late Picasso, exh. cat., London, 1988, p. 80).

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