Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Executed at Picasso’s La Californie estate, Bacchanale is a poignant reflection of the artist’s joie de vivre. In the early autumn of 1955, the artist fell just after filming had wrapped for Le Mystère Picasso, a striking exposé on Picasso’s creative process. Confined to bedrest, he could only humor his imagination through creation, with the present whimsical scene as a distraction from the realities of waning health. Pierre Cabanne further elaborates on Picasso’s state of mind at this time: “Painfully. Yet insolently too. For he was struggling. The time might be nearing when he would have to give up loving, enjoying sex, women, climax, give up living” (Pablo Picasso, His Life and Times, New York, 1979, p. 446).
This adherence to care-free moments of jubilation mirrors Picasso’s outlook on the life he had built in the South of France. In this euphoric Bacchanale celebration, the grouping of figures lose themselves in ritualistic movement, performing a dance to the rhythmic pulse of the tambourine and horn. The nudity, hazy laurel crown and archaic horn instrument allude to a pagan ceremony. The insertion of the frivolous goat, frolicking with the clan of troubadours references the menagerie of pets Picasso kept at La Californie during the mid-fifties. The following year, Jacqueline would surprise the artist with a pet goat, Esmeralda, whose face would subsequently be immortalized on Picasso’s Madoura ceramics. As Neil Cox explains, “Goats also bring about one of Picasso’s most explicit references on the nature of sacrifice…Yet we also see a playful delight in the frolicsome sexuality of these creatures, in those antics for which they have been denigrated, but which to Picasso were an enduring source of irreverent pleasure” (A Picasso Bestiary, London, New York, 1995, p. 132, p. 119).