Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Tête de chèvre de profil (A.R. 145), conceived on 5 June 1952. An edition of 250 Stamped ‘Madoura plein feuempreinte originale de Picasso’

Collecting guide: Picasso ceramics

Specialists’ tips on buying and collecting, from what to look for in a glaze to finding the right motif and reading hidden stamps — illustrated with upcoming works at Christie’s

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  • There is a Picasso ceramic for everyone

Picasso designed 633 different ceramic editions between 1947 and 1971, with a number of variants and unique pieces resulting from these initial works. Although he began by producing decorated utilitarian objects, such as plates and bowls, he later produced more complex forms such as pitchers and vases — their handles occasionally shaped to form facial features, or anatomical parts where they depicted animals. 

With Picasso remaining one of the highest grossing artists at auction today, the range of his ceramics means it’s easy to choose a work that is both an investment and something you’ll love. So there really is a perfect Picasso ceramic for everyone.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Chouette (A.R. 543), conceived in 1968. A numbered edition of 500 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘edition PicassoMadoura plein feuedition PicassoMadoura47500’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic vase, partially engraved, with coloured engobe and glaze. Height 11⅜ in (29.1 cm). Estimate $15,000-20,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Chouette (A.R. 543), conceived in 1968. A numbered edition of 500 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘edition Picasso/Madoura plein feu/edition Picasso/Madoura/47/500’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic vase, partially engraved, with coloured engobe and glaze. Height: 11⅜ in (29.1 cm). Estimate: $15,000-20,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

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  • Familiarise yourself with Picasso’s techniques

Over the course of his lifetime Picasso explored a number of different ceramic techniques, experimenting with paint, playing with form, or engraving the clay’s surface. Eventually, extensive research led him to adopt two main production methods. 

The first was based on the painstaking replication of an original object by hand, following its form and decoration as closely as possible. The second saw the artist create original images in dry clay moulds, transferring a design onto fresh clay — works made using this method carry the mark Empreinte originale de Picasso.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Lampe femme (A.R. 295), conceived in 1955. An edition of 100 Stamped and marked ‘daprès PicassoMadoura plein feuedition Picasso’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic vase, partially engraved, with coloured engobe. Height 14⅜ in (36.5 cm). Estimate $10,000-15,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Lampe femme (A.R. 295), conceived in 1955. An edition of 100 Stamped and marked ‘d'après Picasso/Madoura plein feu/edition Picasso’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic vase, partially engraved, with coloured engobe. Height: 14⅜ in (36.5 cm). Estimate: $10,000-15,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Vase aztèque aux quatre visages (A.R. 402), conceived in 1957. A numbered edition of 100 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘edition PicassoMadoura plein feuedition PicassoMadoura28100’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic vessel, partially engraved, with coloured engobe. Height 21⅝ in (54.8 cm). Estimate $60,000-80,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Vase aztèque aux quatre visages (A.R. 402), conceived in 1957. A numbered edition of 100 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘edition Picasso/Madoura plein feu/edition Picasso/Madoura/28/100’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic vessel, partially engraved, with coloured engobe. Height: 21⅝ in (54.8 cm). Estimate: $60,000-80,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

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  • Pay attention to stamps and markings

Every ceramic produced by Picasso features a stamp or marking, which can be found on the underside of the work, on the reverse — or even inside the piece itself. Some editions also feature their edition number (e.g. 1/40) or a date. 

These stamps and markings differ from one edition to another, and evolve over time. The most common, however, are ‘Madoura Plein Feu’, ‘Empreinte Originale de Picasso’ and ‘Edition Picasso’.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Hibou aux ailes déployées (A.R. 397), conceived on 7 May 1957. A numbered edition of 200 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘edition PicassoMadoura plein feun 10952200’ (underneath). Terracotta plate, partially engraved, with black engobe. Diameter 17¼ in (44 cm). Estimate $7,000-10,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Hibou aux ailes déployées (A.R. 397), conceived on 7 May 1957. A numbered edition of 200 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘edition Picasso/Madoura plein feu/n 109/52/200’ (underneath). Terracotta plate, partially engraved, with black engobe. Diameter: 17¼ in (44 cm). Estimate: $7,000-10,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

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  • Consider condition

When deciding whether to buy any ceramic, it’s important to know how to assess its condition. Here, date can provide a useful guide. It is much rarer, for example, to come across ceramics that are still perfect in Picasso’s earlier editions. If it’s written, the number of the edition should also be taken into consideration — a work that is number one in a series of 500 (1/500) will have been made much earlier than work number 500/500.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Visage de femme (A.R. 220), conceived in 1953. An edition of 400 Stamped ‘Madoura plein feuedition Picasso’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic plate, partially engraved, with coloured engobe and glaze. Length 15¼ in (38.8 cm). Estimate $20,000-30,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Visage de femme (A.R. 220), conceived in 1953. An edition of 400 Stamped ‘Madoura plein feu/edition Picasso’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic plate, partially engraved, with coloured engobe and glaze. Length: 15¼ in (38.8 cm). Estimate: $20,000-30,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

Another consideration is whether the ceramic is glazed, unglazed or partially glazed; it is not uncommon to find faint handling marks on unglazed areas. Ceramic, however, is a complex medium, and small imperfections resulting from the production process should not be confused with condition issues. Cracks from firing, crazing — or very fine cracks — in the glaze, and marks from the studio are all part of the final piece.

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  • Pick motifs that suit your surroundings

Picasso produced more than 3,500 ceramic designs, including plates, vases, dishes, tiles and pitchers. Whether a bullfighting scene, a visage plate, an owl, goat or fish plate, or a portrait of his last muse and second wife, Jacqueline Roque, each work will sit differently depending on the surroundings — a particular design might fit better in one room than in another, depending on its shape and colour.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Taureau (A.R. 255), conceived on 29 March 1955. A numbered edition of 100 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘edition PicassoMadoura plein feuedition PicassoMadoura87100’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic pitcher, partially engraved, with coloured engobe. Height 12 in (30.3 cm). Estimate $70,000-100,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Taureau (A.R. 255), conceived on 29 March 1955. A numbered edition of 100 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘edition Picasso/Madoura plein feu/edition Picasso/Madoura/87/100’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic pitcher, partially engraved, with coloured engobe. Height: 12 in (30.3 cm). Estimate: $70,000-100,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

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  • Consider your groupings

Our buyers often have more than one Picasso ceramic at home and, when deciding to buy a new piece, will often be influenced by what is already in their collections.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Oiseau, 1947. White earthenware ceramic plate, partially engraved, with colored engobe and glaze. Length 15 in (38.2 cm). Estimate $25,000-35,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Oiseau, 1947. White earthenware ceramic plate, partially engraved, with colored engobe and glaze. Length: 15 in (38.2 cm). Estimate: $25,000-35,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Visage à la grille (A.R. 352), conceived in 1956. A numbered edition of 100 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘Madoura plein feuempreinte originale de Picassoc 11489100’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic plate, partially engraved, with coloured engobe and glaze. Diameter 16⅝ in (42.2 cm). Estimate $7,000-10,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Visage à la grille (A.R. 352), conceived in 1956. A numbered edition of 100 Stamped, marked and numbered ‘Madoura plein feu/empreinte originale de Picasso/c 114/89/100’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic plate, partially engraved, with coloured engobe and glaze. Diameter: 16⅝ in (42.2 cm). Estimate: $7,000-10,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online

Some will seek out works that can easily be displayed alongside the rest of their collection, choosing to echo a particular theme or style.

Others, however, will pursue a ceramic that is completely different from anything they already own, gradually amassing examples of several of Picasso’s editions.

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  • Recognise your preference

The sheer variety of Picasso ceramics is part of their enduring appeal. Recognising your preferences, however, can help to refine the collecting process considerably.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Pichet bleu et brun, 1954. Stamped ‘Madoura plein feu’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic pitcher with coloured engobe and glaze. Height 9 in (22.9 cm). Estimate $30,000-40,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Pichet bleu et brun, 1954. Stamped ‘Madoura plein feu’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic pitcher with coloured engobe and glaze. Height: 9 in (22.9 cm). Estimate: $30,000-40,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Cruchon hibou (A.R. 293), conceived in 1955. An edition of 500 Stamped and marked ‘Madoura plein feuedition PicassoMadouraedition Picasso’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic pitcher, partially engraved, with coloured engobe and glaze. Height 10⅛ in (25.8 cm). Estimate $6,000-8,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Cruchon hibou (A.R. 293), conceived in 1955. An edition of 500 Stamped and marked ‘Madoura plein feu/edition Picasso/Madoura/edition Picasso’ (underneath). White earthenware ceramic pitcher, partially engraved, with coloured engobe and glaze. Height: 10⅛ in (25.8 cm). Estimate: $6,000-8,000. Offered in Picasso Ceramics Online on 1-15 November 2021 at Christie’s Online


Take time to consider whether you attach more importance to the shape and colour of the work, or prefer to focus on other aspects, such as the size of the edition, the year of conception, or the condition of the work. Do you prefer plates or vases? Goats or mythological creatures? Colourful or rustic styles?