Picasso's output in all media was famously prodigious. It seemed to many observers that what drove Picasso was the desire, almost the need, to create. The end result, the object itself, was of less importance, certainly of less interest, once it had been completed. As a result his various ateliers became storehouses of completed and uncompleted projects. Occasionally Picasso could be persuaded to review these, but it was something he resisted doing because, like many artists, his focus was on the present and future, rather than the past. In 1960, however, whilst moving from Cannes to Notre-Dame-de-Vie near Mougins, a cache of printing plates, some decades old, was unearthed. When the paper wrappers were unfolded they revealed a treasure-trove of images, including tender portraits of Olga, his first wife, of Marie-Thérèse, and of Franoise Gilot. Also discovered were surrealist compositions and early appearances of the Minotaur, which became one of the most important motif's in Picasso's career.
Intrigued, Picasso asked Jacques Frélaut, a printer at Lacourière's studio in Paris, to print a trial run to see how they had survived. From a total of 101 plates it was decided that the best 45 would, at last, be printed in an edition of 50 in 1961. Frélaut, a friend of the artist, knew that in order to prevent the project failing again it was imperative that only small batches of prints should be send to Picasso for signing - anything larger ran the risk of being put off until Picasso could 'find the time', which he never would. Unfortunately, Daniel Henry Kahnweiler, legendary dealer and owner of Gallery Louise Leiris, ignored this advice and had the entire edition delivered in one ominous-looking crate. As Frélaut predicted the box was put to one side and eventually buried under waves of newer work. And there it stayed until it was unearthed almost twenty years later, by which time it had been christened 'box of regrets', regrets not just of Picasso, but also of Kahnweiler, who thought an opportunity had been lost for ever.
However, as events transpired, all was not lost. In 1980, the artist's heirs authorised Galerie Louise Leiris to issue them. Under their supervision, a stamped signature and edition number was applied to each impression. For the most part, the gallery sold the plates individually with the result that very few sets of this fascinating series remain intact.