Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
The image of the woman as flower seen in this drawing looks back to the iconic portrait that Picasso painted of Françoise Gilot, titled La femme-fleur and completed 5 May 1946 (Zervos, vol. 16, no. 167; fig. 1). At that time Picasso and Françoise had been living together in the artist's Paris studio on the rue des Grands-Augustins for about a month. The painting had begun as a realistic portrait of a seated woman, but Picasso began to elongate the forms, which became increasingly plant-like. As Françoise later wrote, the artist told her when he finished it, "You're like a growing plant and 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" (Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 119).
Having drawn two flower compositions on 28 September 1948 (Zervos, vol. 15, nos. 83 and 84), Picasso turned again to the idea of La femme-fleur. He made three pencil drawings on 1 October (Zervos, vol. 15, nos. 86 and 87; the third not in Zervos), in which caterpillar-like insect forms become apparent in the leaves. Valerie-Anne Sircoulombe-Müler has noted, "the human figures here are formally close to mutating organisms that are entre-deux, half-plant, half insect" (Pablo Picasso, The Time with Françoise Gilot, exh. cat., Graphikmuseum Pablo Picasso, Münster, 2002, p. 42). On the next day, 2 October, Picasso drew a more complicated composition which further shows this transformation. It is actually composed of overlaid drawings, apparently executed at two different times during the day, with the result that the artist numbered the sheet "I-IV" (Zervos, vol. 15, no. 89).
The present drawing was also executed on 2 October, at some point between the two stages of the composite drawing numbered 'I-IV'. It perhaps more clearly shows the basic ovoid motifs that Picasso utilized, laid out in a nearly symmetrical manner. Picasso made a third drawing of this kind on 3 October (Zervos, vol. 15, no. 88). "The sequence drawn in October 1948 is a playful repetition of the metamorphosis in which the breasts and the undersized head are given as circles. The figure's arms are like wings with radial outgrowths. The initially frail body of this cross between a woman and flower; this could be an illusion to the pregnancy of Françoise, who was expecting Paloma at the time" (ibid.).