Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Executed in 1950, the present lot is the unique prototype (marked '1') for the edition of 25 (Ramié no. 216), and can also be identified as an artist's copy, having remained with the Succession Picasso until the artist's death and subsequently the Marina Picasso collection until the 1980s.
The decoration, clearly an alteration of the edition of Grand vase aux femmes nues (Ramié no. 215), conceived in the same year, consists of four veiled women with a white engobe background accentuated with the black and ochre detailing in the base, hair, and white-translucent drapery. The artist has developed the simple nude frieze into an entirely new composition, breathing life and movement through the diaphanous textures, bold facial features and voluminous hair. In contrast to this charged, unique creation, which emanates the gestural spontaneity of the studio work of the master himself, complete with its reworkings, the edition pieces for which it is the prototype (Ramié no. 216) transformed into a more subtle end; the figures are draped with darker, thinner veils in black rather than radiating-white, and with a more mechanical and uniform application of the detailing in the fabric and hair.
Ceramics played a fundamental part in Picasso's career, from his first experiments in 1947 until his death almost thirty years later. He first visited the Madoura workshop in Vallauris on the invitation of Georges Ramié in 1946 and was immediately attracted by the flexibility of clay and the unusual combination of pictorial and sculptural possibilities that it offered. He was also moved by the ancient associations of the village of Vallauris which had been a ceramic centre since Roman times and particularly inspired by the atavism involved in emulating the primeval practice of fashioning vessels out of this ancient earth.
Appreciated by the artist as a creative medium in its own right, he explored the play offered by ceramic work between line and form - light and shadows - two dimensions and three dimensions. The many complex skills involved took some time for Picasso to learn, but, typically, as soon as he had mastered the techniques, he set about reinventing them in an unorthodox way and observing their transformation in the kiln. This is clear in the complex combination of glazing techniques and oxides used in the present work.
Grand vase aux femmes voilées is a remarkable example of Picasso's artistic research and development of this celebrated medium. Possibly inspired by the artist's then companion Françoise Gilot, the figures as well as the curvature of the vase itself, which echoes his Tanagra figurines, emphasise and accentuate the female form, while the tone and softness of the terracotta, balanced by the rustic white slip, simulate the look and touch of bare skin.