Picasso painted this delightfully enigmatic portrait of Jacqueline Picasso during the final weeks they spent in the artist's chateau at Vauvenargues, near Aix, where they had been living since early 1959. They moved to a villa called Notre-Dame-de-Vie in Mougins, above Cannes, in June. While they had been living together since 1954, they were then married for only several months, following their wedding in Vallauris on 2 March 1961. At the time of this, his second marriage, Picasso was nearly eighty years old; Jacqueline (née Roque) was thirty-five. She would remain with him to the end, serving as his tireless protectress and muse during the final decade of his life, a glorious Indian summer of nearly non-stop painting, drawing and printmaking. John Richardson has paid her a fitting tribute:
"Given the enormity of her sacrifice, the least we can do is denote the last two decades of the artist's work as l'époque Jacqueline. It is her image that permeates Picasso's work from 1954 until his death, twice as long as any of her predecessors... It is her solicitude and patience that sustained the artist in the face of declining health and death and enabled him to be more productive than ever before and go on working into his ninety-second year. ...For Picasso, Jacqueline was, in a very literal way, Notre-Dame-de-Vie." (in Late Picasso, exh. cat., The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 47).
At the heart of this portrait lies a formal device that Picasso had employed from time to time since the mid-1920s (see lot 59), the union of two facing profiles, dovetailed to create a single visage as if seen from the front. It was a play on the cubist practice in which the object was seen from multiple vantage points within a unified, composite image. The conjoined, opposing profiles might suggest introspection and self-contemplation, or the union of opposing tendencies within a single personality. Picasso had used this facial schematic to suggest the symptoms of a manic depressive tendency, what we would now call a bipolar disorder, in his first wife Olga. He might envision a single countenance drawn from two women who were playing different and competing roles in his life, while vying for his affection, such as the rivalry he provoked between Olga and Marie-Thérèse Walter, and later between Marie-Thérèse and Dora Maar.
Picasso did not impute, however, such contentious feelings to Jacqueline in this portrait. He was pleased at having noticed that her profile resembled that of the right-hand figure in Delacroix's Femmes d'Alger, and often depicted her from this point of view. It is more likely that this portrait embodies Picasso's understanding and acceptance of the woman he loves as a complex personality in her own right, who expresses a full range of emotions couched in both light and shade. The oval format of the panel circumscribes the unity of the two profiles within a satisfyingly rounded whole. This shape may also indicate that Picasso had in mind some decorative purpose for the painting in his home--he did not sign and part with it, and it remained in his collection for the remainder of his life. This painting is like an old fashioned family photograph, reconfigured in the jagged forms of modernism, or like a mirror in which Jacqueline might view herself as she left the house, checking the tilt of her fine little hat.
(fig. 1) Jacqueline Roque, 1956. Photograph by André Villiers. BARCODE 25240160