Maya Widmaier Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
'In Picasso's oeuvre, man always appears in disguise or playing a role. He is either the painter at work, the musketeer, or the matador and is portrayed with the attributes of his virility such as the long pipe, a sabre or a sword. In 1966, a new figure emerges in the iconography of Picasso that eventually comes to dominate the period. It is that of the gentleman of the "Siècle d'Or", half-Spanish, half-Dutch, and dressed in colourful costume, with cap, boots and large feathered cap and collar... As Christan Gelhaar points out, the painter in his old age, feeling the gradual diminishing of his vital forces seems to find a second youth in the gallant attire of these musketeers' (M.L. Bernadac, 'Picasso 1953-1972', in exh. cat. Late Picasso, Paris, 1988, p. 43).
In early 1966, while in Mougins convalescing from surgery he had undergone some months previously, Picasso re-read Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers. He had just begun painting again, and before long a new character entered his work, the musketeer, or the Spanish version of the 17th century cavalier, the hidalgo, a rakish nobleman skilled with the sword and daring in his romantic exploits. The brave and virile musketeer was strongly identifiable with the aging artist himself, but also provided Picasso with a pretext to indulge in his love of Rembrandt, Velázquez and other great painters of the Baroque.
Like many of the artist's late works, the portraits of musketeers were done in series. Essentially traditional in pose and format, the musketeer became a favoured subject over the next few years and allowed Picasso to explore different means of representing the human form within a strict framework. Picasso found this method of constant variation especially useful when exploring old master subjects. It was an effective means of probing and re-interpreting a style or manner, and the repeated appearance of these subjects demonstrates the playful way in which the artist liked to project his own personality and fantasies into these characters from the past.
With his goatee beard, long curls and lace collar, the subject of the present work is instantly recognisable. Many of Picasso's musketeers proclaim their Spanish heritage in his use of the national colours of blood red and golden yellow, which, here, contrast powerfully with the blues and purples of the sitter's face and bright white of his collar. If the archetype of this work is the splendid celebration of 17th century aristocracy through the portraiture of the Spanish and Dutch golden age, Picasso's expropriation of the subject displays the master's usual biting and provocative tone. The musketeer is not the young gentleman in full attire, but an old man: the elegant subject disguises the witty and powerful artist in his late 80s, his eyes fiercely piercing the spectator, his power of seduction still intact and defiant.