This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Maya Widmaier-Picasso dated Paris le 2 Avril 2005.
Picasso attended his last bullfight in Fréjus, near Saint-Raphaël, in early October 1970. He had already turned from his artist and model theme on 27-30 September to do some matador paintings (Z., vol. 32, nos. 268-271). Whether or not he sensed, at the time, that this corrida in Fréjus would be the last opportunity for him to enjoy one of his favourite recreations, the experience stirred him to undertake a series of large matador paintings between 4 and 23 October (Z., vol. 32, nos. 273-283 and 290). These comprise the ultimate series that he would paint of this subject, apart from a handful of pictures he made in the following year.
Having just completed these paintings, Picasso may have chosen a toreador as an auspicious subject to inaugurate this new sketchbook. Moreover, he may have viewed the torero as a symbol of good fortune, the avatar of his own hopes for continued strength, fitness and bravery before the adversities of old age, as he celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday. He made a point of noting the day 'dimanche' on this sheet and all the rest done on this date. John Richardson recalled Picasso telling him "that anyone who bothered to check the dates would discover his bullfight subjects were usually executed on a Sunday, the traditional day of the corrida" (in "L'époque Jacqueline", Late Picasso, exh. cat., The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 28). This Sunday, 25 October 1970, was a fortuitous conjunction of both his birthday and the ritual of the corrida, which Picasso commemorated in this powerful drawing.
The torero bears Picasso's features: there are his glaring eyes, broad nose, firm lips and chin. He stands proudly and confidently, looking out past the viewer, as if posed for a formal portrait. The swirling lines that surround him seem to express a cyclonic, almost cosmic force. Picasso, the torero, grasps them as if they were the folds of a huge, mysterious curtain, which he is about to part in order to enter the arena and confront his adversary, which is no less than fate itself, his destiny that was about to be revealed in the coming year as he neared his ninetieth birthday. At the same time Picasso invites the viewer to follow him into the world that he is about to reveal in his sketchbook.