Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Picasso spent most of March 1943 working on his monumental sculpture, L'homme au mouton (Spies, no. 280). His last dated study related to it, the gouache Tête de mouton, was painted on 30 March, the same date of execution as the present work. Picasso drew with brush and thinned oil a series of seven women's heads (Zervos, vol. 12, nos. 310-316), including the present work. In contrast to the naturalistic, chiaroscuro studies that he made for the sculpture in order to work in three-dimensional volume, Picasso reduced the linear and planar elements in this series of heads to the barest essentials, producing images that were flat and sign-like. On 31 March he continued this idea in pen and ink, creating four simple line drawings, the last of which he brushed in with tinted wash (Zervos, vol. 12, nos. 307-309 and 318; the latter in the Musée Picasso, Paris).
The subject of these heads is Dora Maar, who became Picasso's lover in late 1936, only a year after the artist's youthful mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter had given birth to their daughter Maya. This group marks the continuance of a long line of portraits that Picasso made of Dora over the course of almost a decade, ending in 1945. Picasso often depicted her, as seen here, wearing a hat. Brigitte Léal has written, "...If Marie-Thérèse incarnated a wild beauty, a sporty and beautiful 'wild plant,' Dora Maar is the perfect prototype of the surrealist Egeria, capricious and eccentric....The most provocative emblem of her somewhat flashy elegance is the little over-ornate hat that Picasso's placed on her head (he would soon give the object a ridiculous, then grotesque, and even threatening, aspect....). In its preciousness and fetishistic vocation, the feminine hat was, like the glove, an exotic accessory highly prized by the Surrealists.... A crown of daffodils, an urchin's beret, or a cool straw hat for Marie-Thérèse, painted like a Manet; nets, veils and the great wings of a voracious insect for Dora: even their respective ornaments point to the glaring differences in the temperament between the two women" (in Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, pp. 387-392).