3 More
Property From a Distinguished California Collection

The Musicians

The Musicians
signed and dated 'Botero 79' (lower right)
oil on canvas
85 ½ x 74 ¾ in. (217.2 x 189.9 cm.)
Painted in 1979.
Marlborough Gallery, New York.
Private collection, Monterrey.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 29 November 1983, lot 28.
Private collection, New York.
MacKenzie Galleries, Toronto.
Tanenbaum collection, Toronto.
Anon. Sale, Christie’s, New York, 23 May 2006, lot 46.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
C. Ratcliff, Botero, New York, 1980, no. 138, p. 164 (illustrated in color).
W. Spies, Fernando Botero, Munich, 1986, fig. 1, p. 2 (illustrated, detail).
G. Lascault, Botero - La pintura, Madrid, Editions Cercle d'Art, Paris, 1992, p. 258 (illustrated in color).
'Botero,' special edition of Connaissance des Arts, 1993, no. 28, p. 32 (illustrated in color).
Botero Posters, Enrique Michelsen Ediciones, Bogota, 1994, pp. 32 and 64 (illustrated in color).
Découvrons l'art - 20e siècle, Botero, Editions Cercle d'Art, Paris, 1996, no. 30 (illustrated in color).
J. M. Faerna, Botero, Cameo Abrams, New York, 1997, no. 30, p. 39 (illustrated in color).
E. J. Sullivan & J.-M. Tasset, Fernando Botero: Monograph & Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings 1975-1990, Lausanne, 2000, no. 1979/16, pp. 75 and 287 (illustrated in color).
F. Heine, The First Time: Innovations in Art, 2007, p. 160 (illustrated).
A. Ausoni, Music in Art, 2009, p. 356 (illustrated in color).
M. V. Llosa, Le dedico mi silencio, 2023, p. front cover (illustrated in color).
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution; Corpus Christi, Art Museum of South Texas, Fernando Botero, December 1979 - May 1980, no. 66, pp. front cover and 110 (illustrated in color).
Tokyo, Tokyu Department Store Art Gallery; Sapporo, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art; Osaka, Daimaru Museum; Niigata, City Art Museum, Fernando Botero, August - November 1986, no. 18, p. 41 (illustrated in color).
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1997 - 2000 (on extended loan).

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Lit from above by a constellation of lights, a group of musicians are neatly arranged, each poised at the ready, in picture-perfect position, about to impress their audience with an undoubtedly well-rehearsed tune. Musicians take pride of place in Botero’s oeuvre as one of the artist’s most celebrated subjects. The present work, with its grand scale and complex composition, can be counted as one of the artist’s greatest achievements in oil, alongside such masterpieces as Dancing in Colombia from 1980 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Tablao flamenco from 1984. What makes this handful of works truly exceptional is their ability to both parody and honor everyday life in Colombia, elevating the subject to the monumental dimensions of history painting.

Drawing from a range of artistic influences, Botero approaches the time-honored theme of the musical performance from both local and international perspectives. Musicians, central to the cultural identity of Botero’s native Colombia, can also be seen as an essential motif within the broader context of 20th-century Latin American art as explored by modern masters such as Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo. This theme furthermore recalls the legacy of early-20th-century European artists who depicted musical motifs from contemporary life, particularly in Picasso’s and Braque’s guitar players and saltimbanques.

Botero’s trademark voluminous figures arrive from similar origins, initiated by the artist’s earliest experiences in Colombia, but also steeped in European art history. Born in Medellín, Botero spent his early years surrounded by Catholic churches full of Baroque polychrome wooden sculptures that at times resembled porcelain. These colonial sculptural forms captured his imagination and contributed to the development of his rounded and monumental figural types. A serious student of art history, Botero later traveled to Italy and admired the volumetric figures of Piero della Francesca and other artists of the Quattrocento. He continued his studies of the old masters in European museum collections and particularly admired the court portraits of Diego Velázquez and the sensuous, grand-scale works of Peter Paul Rubens. As the artist noted, “I started to paint these volumetric figures when I was 17. I did it by intuition… because it said something to me. Then, of course, when I was in Europe, especially in Italy, I rationalized the importance of volume because I saw that all Italian painters like Michelangelo, Raphael, Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca made a celebration of volume” (Fernando Botero). These myriad of influences led Botero to define his distinctive figurative style, which he modernized with subjects from local Colombian life.

With The Musicians, Botero finds the perfect melody between past and present, humor and celebration, reflecting on the enduring pastimes that sustain community.

More from 20th Century Evening Sale

View All
View All