This work is sold with two photo-certificates, one from Maya Widmaier Picasso and one from Claude Picasso.
After the catastrophes of the war Picasso returned to the Mediterranean coast, which he had not seen since 1939, and, in 1946, spent several months in Antibes, together with Françoise Gilot. It was arguably one of the happiest and most artistically fecund periods of Picasso's life, inspired as he was to a joyful renaissance by the warmth and light of Antibes and by his muse Gilot. The current lot exemplifies the burst of Arcadian splendour which erupted during this intense period of activity in the second half of 1946, giving birth to studies of fauns, centaurs and satyrs, imaginings of love idylls and profound evocations of ancient Greek mythology. Picasso himself remarked that 'at Antibes, this antiquity seizes hold of me every time.'
The present lot was almost certainly produced whilst Picasso worked at the Château Grimaldi, now the Musée Picasso. In need of greater space in which to work after moving to Antibes, a chance conversation with Romuald Dor de la Souchère, the curator of the Château Grimaldi, had led to Picasso being given the keys to the palace in August 1946. He proceeded to use the Château for a number of months as a sprawling studio. On leaving Antibes to return to Paris in December, Picasso left a number of paintings, drawings and gouaches to the Château, and took the remainder with him, including the present lot. The work he bequeathed would go on to become the basis for the present-day Musée Picasso, whose collection includes La Joie de vivre, the emblematic work of this spell in Antibes and the culmination of his figural studies of the period. The present lot can be understood as part of the fertile process of revision and re-composition of ideas at Antibes, a process so integral to Picasso's oeuvre.
Where previous visions of fauns had seen greater angularity in their features and had taken on sharper geometric forms, Picasso introduces a markedly softer tone here. Indeed, recognisable in the features of the faun are those of Jaime Sabartés, the Catalan poet and intimate of Picasso (and subject of a number of portraits), who visited Château Grimaldi in October 1946. Sabartés would recall how, as he stood by watching Picasso at work, he saw his own face reflected in the creature drawn before him 'that is both carefree and capricious, and who has got it in his head to look like me.' (J. Sabartés and P. Eluard, Picasso à Antibes, Paris, 1948, p. 17). The simplicity and vibrancy of the blocks of blue and yellow of the piece are highly evocative of the natural light of the Mediterranean, bathed in sun and sea, colours that are picked up again splendidly in La Joie de vivre. The drawing here speaks of both liberation and joy and, whilst evoking a mythical golden age of antiquity, it also signals a personal golden age in Picasso's own life.
(fig. 1) Picasso and Sabartés in front of the present work, Château Grimaldi, Antibes, 1946.