Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
In the present work, Picasso exalts his lover and companion Françoise Gilot, transforming her into a baroque fantasia of twisting, circling, enveloping, organic forms. She has become a virtual femme-fleur—her neck and head form the pistil of a flower. “You’re like a growing plant,” Picasso remarked to Françoise, while painting her portrait in early May 1946, not long after they began living together in Paris. “I’ve been wondering how I could get across the idea that you belong to the vegetable kingdom rather than the animal. I’ve never felt impelled to portray anyone else this way. It’s strange, isn’t it? I think it’s just right, though. It represents you” (quoted in F. Gilot with C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 119). The war in Europe had ended exactly one year before; Françoise had become in Picasso’s eyes the very embodiment of spring—in peacetime—the first in a decade when the continent was no longer caught up in the throes of total, existential warfare. Picasso experienced in her presence the exciting promise of a new beginning in his life and art.
Françoise was absolutely essential to the remarkable endeavor upon which Picasso set forth during the early post-war years, within a context that Michael FitzGerald delineated as “a triangle of ambitions: art, politics and the family” (Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, pp. 409-445). For a man in his late sixties, already so deeply immersed in his life’s work, this ambitious, threefold commitment should have been a daunting venture, not lightly undertaken. Picasso seemed keen to establish a new, more profound and durable relationship than he had with Dora Maar, one he would continue to find fulfilling into his old age. And so he set his sights on Françoise Gilot, a young woman and aspiring artist he met during the Occupation in 1943, who was some forty years his junior. “Her youth and vivacity, the chestnut color of her luminous eyes, and her intelligent and authoritative approach,” Roland Penrose rhapsodized, “gave her a presence which was both Arcadian and very much of this earth” (Picasso: His Life and Work, Berkeley, 1981, p. 358).