Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Executed in 1959, La pique and Picador, matador et femme (lot 166) and are lively explorations of one of Picasso's most favoured themes: the corrida. Although he had not returned to his native Spain for decades by the time that he created these vivid images of the bullfight, his sense of nationality had not left him, and he had loved discovering the corrida alive and well in the South of France, where he made his home in the years following the Second World War. While the bullfight had long appeared in his works in one guise or another, including paintings from the turn of the century, it was during this period in particular, at the end of the 1950s, that he created some of his most atmospheric pictures on this theme. It is a tribute to the quality of the works from this time that so many of them featured either in Toros y toreros, the 1961 book on the subject written by his friend, the celebrity Luis Miguel Dominguín, or in Toreros, published the same year by the poet Jaime Sabartés, in the latter of which both of these works featured.
Picasso was enchanted by the spectacle of the bullfight, by its rituals and also by the danger. As was so clear from his own pictures of musketeers, lancers and other virile cavalier characters during the later decades of his life, he was fascinated by machismo, and little encapsulated that quality more than the torero. In La pique and Picador, matador et femme, the vigorous manner in which he has rendered these scenes itself shows a form of virile energy, especially the latter work, which features grattage, where Picasso has deliberately scraped through the surface to reveal the more pristine underlying paper, lending it a burst of light, texture and violence at the flashpoint where man and bull have achieved their destructive contact. By contrast, he has boldly kept much of the surface of Picador, matador et femme in reserve, heightening the sense of stillness of this frozen moment of ceremony as the picador faces the woman and matador while also perfectly conveying the sun-baked appearance of the arena. It is perhaps no coincidence that this work was executed during the height of the bullfighting season, as opposed to La pique, which was created in December.
As with the musketeers and other characters, these images of manly valour acted as substitutes for the artist himself, extensions of his own persona, and all the more so as he approached old age. He even saw the process of art-making in corrida-indebted terms, for instance when he said, in a comment that is reflected in the deliberate gesturality of La pique and Picador, matador et femme: 'To finish an object means to finish it, to destroy it, to rob it of its soul, to give it the puntilla as to a bull in the ring' (Picasso, quoted in M.-L. Bernadac, 'Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model', Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972, exhib. cat., London & Paris, 1988, p. 88). As well as identifying with his Spanish nationality through the ritual and spectacle of the bullfight, Picasso had a long-standing relationship, in artistic terms, with the bull itself; one of the most frequent alter egos through which he represented himself from the 1920s onwards was the Minotaur, half man and half bull.