PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)

Buste d'homme lauré

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Buste d'homme lauré
dated '11.5.69.' (on the reverse)
oil and Ripolin on canvas
45 5/8 x 35 in. (115.7 x 88.8 cm.)
Painted on 11 May 1969
Estate of the artist.
Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Paris (by descent from the above, 1979, until at least 2004).
Heinz Berggruen, Paris.
Private collection, Europe (acquired from the above); sale, Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 30 September 2018, lot 1031.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
R. Alberti, A Year of Picasso Paintings: 1969, New York, 1971, p. 221, no. 180 (illustrated in color).
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1976, vol. 31, no. 194 (illustrated, pl. 63).
Avignon, Palais des Papes, Pablo Picasso: 1969-1970, May-September 1970, no. 32 (illustrated).
New York, Pace Gallery, Picasso: The Avignon Paintings, January-March 1981 (illustrated).
Kunstmuseum Basel, Pablo Picasso, Das Spätwerk, Themen 1964-1972, September-November 1981, pp. 124 and 162, no. 38 (illustrated in color, p. 125).
Mairie de Gisors, Picasso, April-May 1983.
Vienna, Kunstforum and Kunsthalle Tübingen, Picasso: Figur und Porträt, Hauptwerke aus der Sammlung Bernard Picasso, September 2000-June 2002, pp. 192 and 194, no. 88 (illustrated in color, p. 200).
Musée des Beaux Arts de Nantes and Padua, Palazzo Zabarella, Picasso, la peinture seule: 1961-1972, October 2001-January 2003, p. 80, no. 30 (illustrated in color, p. 81; no. 31 in Padua).
Copenhagen, Arken Museum of Modern Art, Picasso: For All Times, January-June 2004, pp. 90 and 117, no. 35 (illustrated in color, p. 90).
Malaga, Museo Picasso, Picasso: Anthology, 1895-1971, October 2004-February 2005, p. 168, no. 124 (illustrated in color).
Istanbul, Sakip Sabanci Museum, Picasso in Istanbul, November 2005-March 2006, pp. 44 and 304, no. 128 (illustrated in color, pp. 44 and 305).
St. Moritz, Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Pablo Picasso: Late Work, August 2007-October 2007.
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Picasso & the Camera, October 2014-January 2015, p. 353 (illustrated in color).

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Lot Essay

In the autumn of 1968, Pablo Picasso turned his eye again toward the figure of the musketeer, a defining subject of his late work. This swashbuckling character first entered Picasso’s œuvre in 1966: during a protracted period of convalescence, he began to re-read many classic works of literature, from Spanish Golden age epics to novels by Charles Dickens, Honoré de Balzac, and Georges Remi's serials The Adventures of Tintin. It was Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers, however, that he found most captivating, and the novel’s daring, exuberant heroes appealed to the artist emerging from a long illness. Indeed, facing down the last years of his life, Picasso was acutely aware of his own mortality, and the vivacious musketeers proffered a pictorial opportunity to a man who had always lived to the fullest.
Set against a pale ground, the frontally-posed musketeer in Buste d’homme lauré is suave and debonair, sporting a lavish vest, thick black hair, and a jaunty mustache. He wears an ostentatious doublet–articulated by decadent swathes of ice blue and red–and the titular laurel crown, a nod to Picasso’s return to fighting form; the laurel wreath has been a symbol of triumph since antiquity. On the figure’s chest, a tiny daub of yellow gleams in the light. This oversized presence is further emphasized by the musketeer’s unwavering gaze and, with hands placed firmly on the arms of the chair, he appears ready to leap into action. Buste d’homme lauré is one of two paintings created on 11 May 1969, both of which feature a man enthroned, an arrangement Picasso had turned to repeatedly throughout this period.
Picasso was deeply fond of his musketeers, attributing identities and temperaments to each and giving them totems to mark out their personalities. In the catalogue to the exhibition Pablo Picasso: 1969-1970, held at the Palais des Papes in Avignon and in which Buste d’homme lauré was shown, Christian Zervos, the curator, wrote, “The feelings that animated his musketeers, for example, expressed the artist’s prevailing concern with inscribing a total affirmation of himself within them. These musketeers, he said to us, are us. They reveal the secret depths of men who, from solitude to solitude, act of courage to act of courage, disappointment to disappointment, know themselves as brothers” (“Pablo Picasso: 1969-1970,” 1970, reprinted in Picasso: Mosqueteros, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2009, p. 293). As he had done throughout his career with the figure of the minotaur and the Mediterranean sailor, Picasso saw his legion of musketeers–which for centuries had represented masculinity, heroism, wit, and virility–as visual substitutes for his own self. The musketeer, renowned for his rakish looks, courageous feats, and many loves, provided an ideal and attractive image for the artist.
For one whose career was defined by experimentation and innovation, Picasso was well aware of the significance of a “Great Late Phase,” an honor bestowed upon only the most inimitable (J. Richardson, “Great Late Picasso,” in ibid, p. 15). It was during these years that he began to contend with the artists he so admired, reimaging and refracting iconic works such as Eugène Delacroix’s Les femmes d’Alger and Edouard Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe. "In old age," John Richardson explained, "Picasso would admit to being very conscious of old masters breathing down his neck. Far from being bothered by this, he was so secure in his genius that he conjured master after master into the heart of his work and had his way with them" (A Life of Picasso: The Early Years, London, 1992, vol. 1, p. 185).
More than anyone, however, it was Rembrandt with whom Picasso entered into the closest dialogue over the course of the 1960s. Increasingly, Picasso identified with the Dutch artist, who likewise had enjoyed a long career and was always eager to insert himself into his tableaux. Picasso admired Rembrandt’s drawings and etchings, and Jacqueline Roque, his wife, told André Malraux that it was this art in particular that had inspired the musketeers.
Yet even as he identified with Rembrandt’s output, Picasso continued to quote different artists, a demonstration of his prowess which announced to the world that he did not simply belong in the great pantheon of artists but was its reigning king. This is hinted at by the crown of laurel leaves the protagonist of the present work wears, a wreath which has anointed champions for more than a millennia. Here, Picasso is the self-proclaimed victor. Richardson wrote of this proclivity, asking, “Why did Picasso lock horns with one great painter after another? Was it a trial of strength–arm wrestling? Was it out of admiration or mockery, irony or homage, Oedipal rivalry or Spanish chauvinism? Each case was different, but there is always an element of identification, an element of cannibalism involved–two elements that, as Freud pointed out, are part of the same process. Indeed Freud described the process of identification as ‘psychic cannibalism.’ You identified with someone; you cannibalized them; you assumed their powers. How accurately this described what Picasso was up to in his last years” (“The Catch in the Late Picasso” in The New York Review of Books, 19 July 1984). Cannibalistic though it may have been, such a gesture was also reverential and enabled Picasso to connect directly with his forebears. History, to him, was fluctuating, malleable, and never truly gone. “To me there is no past or future in art,” he said. “The art of the great painters who lived in other times is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was” (quoted in M. Zayas, “Picasso speaks,” in The Arts, New York, 1923).
Buste d’homme lauré was in the collection of Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s grandson, before it was acquired by Heinz Berggruen, the art critic, curator, and dealer. After moving to Paris following World War II, Berggruen met Picasso through the Surrealist poet Tristan Tzara, and the two became close friends. Berggruen was also an avid collector, acquiring a striking range of Picasso’s work that reflected his deep understanding of the artist.

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