Between December 1961 and November 1962, Picasso painted six portraits, all life-sized or nearly so, of his wife Jacqueline Roque accompanied by the couple's Afghan hound Kaboul (Zervos, vol. 20, nos. 160, 244-245; vol. 23, nos. 77, 86-87; figs. 1-2). Since 1954, the image of Jacqueline--the last great love of Picasso's life--had dominated the artist's work, forming the largest group of portraits in his entire oeuvre. Here, he has depicted Jacqueline enthroned in an armchair, her demeanor dignified and seigniorial, the undisputed mistress of Notre-Dame-de-Vie, the spacious farmhouse near Mougins where the couple had moved in June 1961, three months after their wedding. This would be Picasso and Jacqueline's home for the rest of the artist's life, as well as the backdrop for the incredible explosion of creativity that distinguishes the final two decades of his prodigious career. Kaboul had joined Picasso and Jacqueline's menagerie of pets--several dogs, a goat, and a roost of doves--in October 1961, a gift from Jean Leymarie for the artist's eightieth birthday, and entered Picasso's work within weeks. Hélène Parmelin, a frequent visitor to Mougins, was struck by the powerful paintings of Jacqueline and her newest canine attendant: "Picasso had just been showing us serious faces with huge close-set eyes, sort of Mona Lisas with elongated hands, a multiplication of women seated in their dresses with the Afghan hound Kaboul close against the folds of their skirts... 'They are the Dames de Mougins,' [he said]. 'The queens, the beloved ones, the Jacquelines, all watching us at once with an incomparable serenity'" (Picasso Says, London, 1969, p. 29).
Picasso adored dogs, and even during his early, penurious days in Paris, when a few francs might have made the difference between hunger and a meal, he always kept at least one canine companion. Their importance to him is evident in a 1903 self-portrait drawing, in which the young, bohemian artist, dwarfed by his enormous overcoat, confronts adversity with only his dog by his side, anticipating the itinerant figures of the Rose Period with their rangy mutts (Zervos, vol. 1, no. 196). Picasso acquired his first Afghan hound, Kazbek, during the period of the Occupation; the dog's distinctive, bony physique, Picasso joked with Brassaï, made him resemble a large skate or (according to Dora Maar) a jumbo shrimp (Brassaï, Conversations with Picasso, Chicago, 1999, pp. 122-123). The breed was relatively unknown in France at the time, and Kasbek thus generated great interest among passers-by --so much so that Picasso, exasperated, allegedly instructed his chauffer, "Marcel, once and for all, when someone asks you what breed my dog is, tell him it's a--Charente basset hound. That will give them such a shock that they won't ask any more questions" (quoted in ibid., p. 123).
Kaboul, Picasso's second Afghan hound, quickly became a mainstay at Notre-Dame-de-Vie following his arrival in October 1961. The artist's grandson Claude remembered him as a trained guard dog, ferocious and intimidating, while others recalled his penchant for biting people's posteriors. By contrast, a series of photographs that David Douglas Duncan took of Picasso, Jacqueline, and Kaboul portray the dog as a faithful and affectionate companion. Jean Leymarie recalled, "[His] thin muzzle would sometimes be found right next to Jacqueline's pure face" (in B. Léal, C. Piot, and M.-L. Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2003, p. 16). Two of Duncan's photographs hung on the wall of Picasso's studio at the time of his death, testament to Kaboul's standing in the household during the artist's final decade. In the present painting, the hound stands nobly by Jacqueline's side, silently attending his mistress, who holds a leash in her left hand; in other examples, Jacqueline reaches out to pat the dog's head or to stroke his back affectionately. In October 1962, Picasso also painted a single canvas that shows Kaboul sniffing a laden table in the tradition of Chardin's Buffet, evidence of the hound's mischievous side (Zervos, vol. 20, no. 355). Kaboul outlived Picasso, remaining at Notre-Dame-de-Vie with Jacqueline (and a younger Afghan hound named Sauterelle) until his own death in 1975. Duncan recalled, "Kaboul, the regal Afghan, spent his last days gazing at the villa as though remembering those early years when he was constantly at the side of Picasso and Jacqueline" (The Silent Studio, New York, 1976, p. 19).
By the time that Kaboul joined the family, Picasso's canine companions had already begun to play a prominent role in his art. During the 1950s, we find his boxer Jan tussling with Jacqueline (Zervos, vol. 15, nos. 245-246) and his Dalmatian Perro investigating the contents of an ornate sideboard in the dining room at Vauvenargues (Zervos, vol. 18, nos. 332, 379, 384, 389, 394-395). In Picasso's celebrated series of variations on Velázquez's Las Meninas, the royal mastiff who dominates the foreground of the original painting is replaced by Picasso's sprightly dachshund Lump, who had joined the household earlier in 1957 as a gift from Duncan (Zervos, vol. 17, nos. 351-393; fig. 3). Although Picasso's first Afghan hound Kazbek did not appear in his work, his successor Kaboul joined a long line of sighthounds to accompany their masters (or, less often, their mistresses) in portraiture. Picasso surely would have known from the Prado both Titian's Charles V with a Hound and Velázquez's Il Cardinale l'Infante Fernando Cacciatore, in which the hound embodies the royal virtues of unswerving loyalty and valor in the hunt. And he may well have remembered Boldini's flamboyant portrayal of the eccentric Marchesa Luisa Casati with her equally mannered greyhound by her side, which generated a storm of critical response when it was exhibited at the Salon of 1909 (Sold, Christie's, New York, 1 November 1995, lot 6).
In Femme au chien, Kaboul's stately elegance complements Jacqueline's own patrician bearing, which had captivated Picasso since their first meeting. The artist explained in 1964, "Braque once said to me, 'Basically you have always loved classical beauty.' It's true. They don't invent a type of beauty every year" (quoted in D. Ashton, Picasso on Art, New York, 1972, p. 74). The restrained, economical palette of the painting heightens this sense of regal stability, as well as drawing attention to the interlocking, constructive forms of Jacqueline's head. In a riff on Picasso's famous double-face, the eyes are seen frontally, the nose in left profile, and the mouth from the right, the various features dislocated one from another. The right half of the face is brightly illuminated while the left is in deep shadow, as though the head had been sundered vertically along the midline, a public self contrasted with a private self. The effect recalls the numerous sculptures of Jacqueline that Picasso made from cut, bent, and folded sheet metal throughout 1961 and 1962 (fig. 4). The indistinct form to Jacqueline's left reads alternately as the molded back of a chair or a shadow cast by her profile on the wall. Or perhaps it is Picasso's own shadow, anticipating the seminal series on the theme of the artist and model that he would begin just three months later--an allegory of art-making, of course, but also his ultimate paean to Jacqueline and the strength of his feelings for her.
The decidedly sculptural forms of Jacqueline's head in Femme au chien contrast with the flat, summary planes used to describe her from the neck down. Her blue frock, with its decorative, scalloped bodice, lends the image a feminine touch. At the same time, the black tie beneath her breasts resolves into a phallic shape that rises provocatively from her lap. This fusion of male and female elements is echoed in the knobby protrusion (a stylized ear) on the left side of the head, with its unsettling quality of penetration. In other portraits of Jacqueline, both painted and sculpted, from this period, she is shown with Kaboul's distinctive protuberant snout; here, however, his elongated muzzle finds its visual analogue in the phallic form that she encircles protectively with her arms. Two years later, Picasso would repeatedly depict Jacqueline with another animal, a small black cat that she had found on the grounds at Mougins and that briefly joined the household before fleeing back to the garden. The creature itself would rest in Jacqueline's lap, standing in for her pubic hair and genitalia in a visual pun that relies on the French use of chatte as street slang for a woman's pudenda (see Zervos, vol. 24, nos. 96, 141-143; fig. 5). In the present painting, the phallic implications of Kaboul's snout suggest that we might see him as a surrogate for the artist, imbued with Picasso's own persona and his vaunted sexual powers.
Still, it is Jacqueline who unmistakably dominates the composition, testament to her all-powerful presence at Notre-Dame-de-Vie. To quote Parmelin once again, "All of Notre Dame de Vie is made up of Jacqueline, rests upon Jacqueline, signifies Jacqueline. And all of the paintings are of Jacqueline... Jacqueline has the gift of becoming painting to an unimaginable degree. She has within her that wonderful power on which the painter feeds. She flows. She is made for it and gives of herself and devotes herself and dies in harness though living all the while and never posing. She harbors that multiplicity of herself. She peoples Notre Dame de Vie with her hundred thousand possibilities. She unfurls ad infinitum. She invades everything. She becomes all characters. She takes the place of all models of all the artists on all the canvases. All the portraits resemble her, even though they may not resemble each other. All the heads are hers and there are a thousand different ones..." (Picasso: Intimate Secrets of a Studio at Notre Dame de Vie, New York, 1966, pp. 14-15).
(fig. 1) Picasso, Jacqueline, and Kaboul at Notre-Dame-de-Vie, 1963. Photograph by Edward Quinn.
(fig. 2) Pablo Picasso, Femme au chien, 1962. Sold, Christie's, London, 20 June 2012, lot 8.
(fig. 3) Pablo Picasso, Les Ménines, vue d'ensemble, 1957. Museu Picasso, Barcelona.
(fig. 4) Pablo Picasso, Femme au chapeau, 1961. Beyeler collection, Basel
(fig. 5) Pablo Picasso, Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil, 1964. Sold, Christie's, New York, 4 May 2010, lot 39.