Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Eleven matchbox drawings: 1) After Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Femme à sa toilette 2) After Pablo Picasso, L'Arlequin 3) After Pablo Picasso, Nature morte 4) After Pablo Picasso, Autoportrait 5) After Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Femme se lavant les pieds 6) After Félix Ziem, Vue de Venise 7) After Amedeo Modigliani, Tête d'homme 8) After André Derain, Paysage de l'Estaque 9) After André Derain, Nature morte 10) After André Derain, Paysage du Midi 11) After Amedeo Modigliani, Femme assise

Details
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Eleven matchbox drawings:
1) After Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Femme à sa toilette
2) After Pablo Picasso, L'Arlequin
3) After Pablo Picasso, Nature morte
4) After Pablo Picasso, Autoportrait
5) After Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Femme se lavant les pieds
6) After Félix Ziem, Vue de Venise
7) After Amedeo Modigliani, Tête d'homme
8) After André Derain, Paysage de l'Estaque
9) After André Derain, Nature morte
10) After André Derain, Paysage du Midi
11) After Amedeo Modigliani, Femme assise
pencil on the lid of a wooden matchbox
each approx. 2¼ x 1 3/8 in. (5.7 x 3.7 cm.)
Executed in 1916 (11)
Provenance
Private collection, Paris.
A gift from the above to the present owner in February 1981.
Special notice

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Sale room notice
This work is accompanied by a letter of authenticity signed by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler dated 22 March 1966 on Galerie Louise Leiris headed-paper.

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Lot Essay

This work is sold with two photo-certificates, one from Maya Widmaier Picasso and one from Claude Picasso.

At various moments in his career Picasso demonstrated his ability and innovation at working with miniatures, such as the three livres minuscules he illustrated for the poet P.A. Benoit in 1955 and the series of etchings, Température, for Jacqueline Roque in 1960. Most notably perhaps he painted six small-scale, detailed paintings, subsequently framed together and arranged around the dedication Je t'aime Gaby, for Gaby de Lespinasse (née Lapeyre), given as a token of his love for her in 1916. Such a gift underlines the intimate, personal quality of miniatures, which is evident in these matchbox drawings, a charming and extremely rare series, also executed in 1916.

Miniature reproductions of paintings or photographs, often compiled in almanacs, were popular in the early twentieth century, having value as accessible mementos or keepsakes. A variation on this theme, the present drawings amount to a 'mini' artists' gallery, in both size and scope. Picasso is not engaged, though, in an act of detailed copying or reproduction here, but in one of displacement, where each work becomes subordinate to a style that is reductive, uniform and contoured so as to generate the clear coherency of a series. The purposeful absence of detail and the diminutive scale heighten the skill needed to differentiate the artists' styles, eliciting suitably minuscule variations in form and composition. The charm of the series is enhanced by the clear sense of playfulness, with Picasso including images after his own work, and by the romantic, spontaneous value of converting the surface of plain wooden matchboxes into this impromptu gallery. There are other examples of his using matchbox covers for small sketches, a medium which became an innovative by-product of his smoking habit and an urge to experiment wherever possible.

The artists' work that Picasso has chosen to represent is not simply a haphazard choice but reflective of those individuals with whom he was in contact with or who he was influenced by at the time. In the case of Renoir, in fact, it serves to confirm an interest that surfaced during the period, for example, in some elements of Picasso's modelling of the female in sketches such as The Three Graces (1915-16). He would go on to buy two drawings by Renoir in 1919-20. Derain, of course, was an intimate friend and significant artistic confidant of Picasso from 1906 until they grew apart in the 1920s. He had also met and shared time with Modigliani in Paris since 1912 and, whilst expressing reservations about his character, showed admiration for his work, not only sitting for Modigliani but also buying the latter's 1918 composition Jeune fille brune assise.

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