Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Executed on 27 February 1951, Chevalier en armure, page et femme nue is one of a group of pictures that Pablo Picasso created during the early months of that year in which he focussed on the character of a knight, sometimes shown with his supporters, sometimes alone. Sitting upon his horse, the knight is shown as though he were almost a contraption, an agglomeration of parts, the human presence almost hidden within his shielding. Indeed, aside from his hands, the most human element of his ensemble is the mask-like standard which hangs from his helmet, implying the extent to which he is relying on presentation. Picasso has clearly revelled in depicting this scene, deploying a wide-ranging arsenal of mark-making techniques, contrasting the globules that make up the shadows in the background with the frenetic, zig-zagging lines that depict the armour and other elements. In the background, the nude has been rendered with a greater fluidity than the knight, creating a rich contrast between the organic forms of her flesh and the rigid metalwork of his armour.
Chevalier en armure, page et femme nue was executed only a few days after Picasso signed and completed an oil painting that related to the themes here, Jeux de pages, now in the Musée Picasso. In that work, pages are shown to either side of the mounted knight, who again is shown as an assemblage of metallic contraptions rather than an entirely recognisable human form, emphasising the extent to which the warrior is in fact subsumed by his armour. Chevalier en armure, page et femme nue appears possibly to continue the narrative of the knight, which had occupied Picasso intermittently for two months. Now, one of the pages appears to be leading him, still astride his steed, through a domestic interior, where they are incongruously creeping up upon a nude woman who is shown behind a pinned-back curtain, itself so reminiscent of the paintings of the Renaissance era from which the knight himself may hail. The page is covertly peeking around the curtain, kneeling on the ground, glimpsing the woman who is luxuriating in her nakedness. Thus Picasso manages to introduce various aspects of manliness. Here is the woman, the object of the knight's desire, yet he remains an absurd figure, drowned in his clinking metal paraphernalia, stalking through the house in supposed stealth on a caparisoned horse.
Some years later, Picasso would discuss the play of characters within his pictures, and the way that they would sometimes come to suggest their own actions, in terms that clearly relate to Chevalier en armure, page et femme nue and its related drawing dwelling on the quixotic wanderings of this errant parody of a knight:
'Of course, one never knows what's going to come out, but as soon as the drawing gets underway, a story or an idea is born. And that's it. Then the story grows, like theatre or life and the drawing is turned into other drawings, a real novel. It's great fun, believe me. At least, I enjoy myself no end inventing these stories, and I spend hour after hour while I draw, observing my creatures and thinking about the mad things they're up to. Basically, it's my way of writing fiction' (Picasso, quoted in R. Otero, Forever Picasso: An Intimate Look at His Last Years, trans. E. Kerrigan, New York, 1974, p. 171).