Throughout his career Picasso made works in response to the great art of the past. Describing his approach to his artistic predecessors he said: ‘I have a horror of copying myself. But when I am shown a portfolio of old drawings, for instance, I have no qualms about taking anything I want from them.’ (Picasso, in conversation with C. Zervos, 1935, quoted in: Ashton, p. 10). This sustained dialogue with the past reached its zenith in the 1950s, when Picasso devoted himself in painting, sculpture and print to reworking masterpieces by artists as diverse as Cranach, Velásquez, Delacroix and Manet.
Explaining the genesis of Picasso’s great linocut Buste de Femme d’après Cranach le Jeune, Picasso’s dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler said: ‘One of Picasso’s notable characteristics was his need to transform existing works of art, to compose “variations on a theme”, as it were. His point of departure was often simply a reproduction in a book; or even a postcard sent by myself, such as Cranach the Younger’s Portrait of a Woman  in Vienna, which became his first linocut in color. Among other things, what struck him in particular about this painting was the way the woman’s shadow ‘rhymes’ with the upper part of her body... This need to transform was certainly an important characteristic of Picasso’s genius.’ (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, ‘Introduction: A Free Man’, in: Penrose/ Golding, p. 8-9)
Picasso had made a preparatory linocut (cf. Baer 1052) after this postcard the day before executing Buste de Femme. This preliminary work, printed in black from one block, follows Cranach’s composition closely - the young girl is depicted in three-quarter profile and faces in the same direction as the painting, requiring Picasso to reverse the image in the cutting. The effect is somewhat labored, and when Picasso revisited the subject again the following day, he abandoned this creative hindrance, this time cutting the subject freely and adapting Cranach’s composition in a much more spontaneous way. The result is a tour de force¬ of printmaking: with fluid cuts of the linocut gouge and the overprinting of bright, flat color from five separate blocks, Picasso amplified what he had described to Kahnweiler as the painting’s internal 'rhymes’. Flattening the pictorial space, the bulging shadow on the girl’s right now merges with the undulating shape of her black bodice and shoulders, themselves echoed in the loops of the gold chain and hair net, and by the curved strokes in the background. The girl’s features are playfully distorted, so that we seem to see her from the front and in full profile simultaneously.
What Picasso described to André Malraux as his desire to ‘paint against the canvases that are important to me…that’s painting: for a painter it means wrestling with painting’. (A. Malraux, Picasso’s Mask, 1976, p. 118), also resonates with the iconoclastic transformation of Cranach’s delicate portrait into an exuberant display of color and rhythmic patterns in this most layered and painterly of all his prints.
The present lot is a trial proof likely printed prior to the final edition where each of the five colors have been printed in the same sequence found in the edition. The print signed and annotated by Hidalgo Arnéra, Picasso’s printer on the reverse. With Arnéra's assistance as printer, Picasso produced over one hundred of these dynamic linocut images from 1958 - 1963, and as collaborators each encouraged the other to redefine the medium. The present lot is a testament to their creative bond.