Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Cavalier en armure was executed on 28 January 1951 and shows a heavily-armoured knight sitting astride his horse. However, closer inspection plunges the viewer into the world of Pablo Picasso. This image of a quixotic knight shows what appears to be an assemblage of objects that are faintly reminiscent of kitchen utensils. The silhouette of the face that appears in the picture tallies with that shown in several others on a similar theme that Picasso created during the first two months of 1951, in which those stylised features appear either as a mask or as a hanging standard. In this way, Picasso hints at the notion that this knight is all about front - and is not the effective warrior, whatever impression he may wish to give.
The horse underneath the rider in this picture is also heavily armoured. This armour was also emphatically present in another work on paper by Picasso, signed the same day, Cheval carapaçonné et cavalier en armure, now in the Musée Picasso, Paris. The protective gear for the horse invokes the long-suffering steeds of the picador, one of the people involved in the bullfights that Picasso so admired and adored. The picador enters the arena, usually led by an assistant, and tries to wound the bull with his lance, often while it is ramming itself against the side of the horse. In Picasso's images of knights from the beginning of 1951, several explicitly fuse the world of chivalry with that of tauromaquia by showing him in the arena, occasionally even with the bull or a crowd behind. This, then, is a study of manliness and machismo, executed by an artist who himself was a great aficionado and a friend of several celebrated bullfighters. The tauromaquia was profoundly tied to Picasso's identity as a Spaniard, alongside the bull and indeed the Minotaur, who had long been a character in the artist's works. At the same time, in the post-war period, Picasso created increasingly whimsical scenes of quixotic characters such as the Cavalier en armure, who prefigures the musketeers and swashbuckling knights of his later works.
Picasso has shown his own incredible flair in Cavalier en armure in the incredible array of marks that he has made. In some areas, he has deliberately incised the picture surface; in others, swooping arcs delineate forms. Elsewhere, he has rigorously and vigorously highlighted dark areas by filling them with ink, creating a rich game of contrasts upon the picture surface. Meanwhile, the array of mark making is pushed to a wonderful, witty extreme by Picasso's depiction of the cloud-flecked sky, which comprises inky finger- or thumb-prints.