SOLD BY THE ORDER OF THE TRUSTEES OF THE HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN TO BENEFIT ITS ACQUISITION PROGRAM
Estate of Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1981)
Acquired from the above in 1986 and deaccessioned in 2005
The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Sixties II, 1967, San Francisco, 2003, no. 67-186, illustrated p. 335
The iconography of the musketeer was indicative of Picasso's self-awareness in the years before his death. Gone from his paintings were the veiled references to the artist as victorious gladiator or centaur; Picasso's autobiographical narrative now needed a more mature and seasoned protagonist to symbolize his own fleeting virility. The vainglorious musketeer was a more appropriate character, offering a spectrum of interpretations that occupied the artist during his final years. His work on this theme began in the mid-1960s with a series of engravings and works on paper that explored this figure, and, later, a variety of canvases of the musketeer, festooned in colorful regalia and brandishing a symbol of his virility - a pipe, instrument, weapon or paintbrush.
The musketeer allowed Picasso to escape the limitations of contemporary subject matter and explore the spirit of a past age. The figure evoked the courtly mannerisms of the Renaissance gentleman and evolved a golden age of painting, reflecting the influence of Velazquez and Rembrandt on Picasso's art. Picasso had devoted a large portion of his time throughout the 1960s to the reinterpretation of the old masters, an experience in which he reaffirmed his connection to the canon of art history. The musketeer series was a continuation of this interest and began, according to his wife Jacqueline Roque, 'when Picasso started to study Rembrandt.' His appreciation of other great figures of the Renaissance, including Shakespeare, also influenced the appearance of these characters.
The genesis of the musketeers can be attributed to Picasso’s period of convalescence after surgery in the fall of 1965. It was during that time he reportedly read the works of William Shakespeare, whose chivalrous characters made a lasting impression. Picasso also spent his recovery period studying the works of Rembrandt featured in illustrated books. According to John Richardson, Rembrandt was “Picasso’s all-powerful God-the-father – a surrogate for his real father, Don José Ruiz, the anything but powerful art teacher and painter of pigeons…. Whether or not he had actually seen The Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum, Picasso had slides of it projected onto his studio walls, thus enabling Rembrandt’s militia men to enter into another artist’s imagination” (J. Richardson, in Mosqueteros, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2009, p. 19).
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