On Mardi Gras of 1972, Pablo Picasso painted Homme assis (Mardi Gras), an imaginative self-portrait in which he is transformed into the mousquetaire figure, a subject he explored in great depth during the final years of his career. His ensemble here is that of an elderly cavalier, a veteran of hard-fought battles and palace intrigues, as if he had stepped out of a 17th century Spanish portrait and dropped into the post-war era of visceral, no-holds-barred painting. The personal features of the artist are nonetheless still recognizable in these frenetic, slathered expanses and washes of oil paint. The eyes bulging from their sockets are a tongue-in-cheek display of Picasso’s own vaunted Mirada fuerte — his ‘strong gaze.’ Most telling is the heraldic display of two chevrons in blue on white, alluding to the stripes of the Mediterranean fisherman’s vest Picasso liked to wear in the studio and around the house. This courtly Spanish gent, seated in Siglo de Oro costume, is as close to a self-referential pictorial surrogate — while not in any sense a conventional self-portrait.
Picasso completed fewer than 20 canvases after painting the present Homme assis. The artist created around 180 other pictures during this period, all works on paper, including some large and wonderfully elaborate wash drawings. But a painter he remained to the very end. According to Ingo F. Walther, on the evening of 7 April 1973, Picasso retouched with white paint Nu couché et tête, dated 25 May 1972. Picasso died shortly before midday 8 April in his home at Mougins, at the age of 91.