Lot 51
  • 51

Pablo Picasso

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Femme à la robe rose
  • Oil on canvas
  • 39 3/8 by 31 7/8 in.
  • 100 by 81 cm.


Estate of the artist

Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Paris

Pace Wildenstein Gallery, New York

Michael Crichton (acquired from the above. Sold: Christie's, New York, May 11, 2010, lot 19)

Acquired at the above sale


Milan, Palazzo Reale, Pablo Picasso, 1953, no. 35, illustrated in the catalogue

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Picasso: der Maler und seine Modelle, 1986, no. 3, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Los Angeles, Pace Wildenstein Gallery, Pablo Picasso: Works from the Estate and Selected Loans, 1998


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, supplément aux volumes 1 à 5, Paris, 1954, vol. 6, no. 1337, illustrated pl. 159 (titled Peinture and as dating from 1917)

Wilhelm Boeck & Jaime Sabartés, Picasso, New York & Stuttgart, 1957, no. 76, illustrated p. 464 (titled Portrait de femme and as dating from 1917)

The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. From Cubism to Neoclassicism, 1917-1919, San Francisco, 1995, no. 17-262, illustrated p. 77

Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso: From the Ballets to Drama, 1917-1926, Barcelona, 1999, no. 1556, illustrated p. 436 (as dating from 1925)


The canvas is unlined. The surface bears the artist's incised marks, particularly in the grey pigments. In the heavily painted areas, predominantly at the lower left and lower right corners, stable craquelure is faintly visible, and a few small spots of retouching can be seen under ultra-violet light in the upper and lower right corners. This work is in very good condition.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Picasso's creative versatility was unmatched by any artist of the 20th century. Femme à la robe rose is a remarkable example of this accomplishment, as it marks the moment of Picasso's departure from Cubism towards the Neo-Classical stylization that would transform his painting at the end of the first world war.  According to Christian Zervos, the present picture dates from 1917, one of the most significant moments in Picasso's production and personal life.  Picasso spent much of this year travelling with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets russes throughout Italy and Spain, designing stage sets for the production and immersing himself in local creative cultural with his friend Jean Cocteau.   Seeing examples of Italian Renaissance paintings and drawings first-hand in Italy was a revelation to him, and thereafter he began to incorporate a distinct clarity of form into his compositions.  This was also the moment when Picasso became intimately involved with Olga Khokhlova, the Ukranian ballerina whom he would marry the following year. Olga's sturdy bone structure -- her long straight nose, the sweeping arch of her brow and the graceful oval shape of her face -- was perfectly suited to the type of linearity and solidity that characterized Picasso's paintings and drawings of this period.   Femme à la robe rose, painted in the midst of these significant events, is most probably inspired by Olga's presence in Picasso's life and the Italianate aesthetics that he encountered during his travels.

Aside from the terracotta-pink shade of the figure's dress, Femme à la robe rose is one of Picasso's most sophisticated gray-toned compositions. As both a color and non-color, gray presented irresistable aesthetic challenges that Picasso met head-on, most noteablely in his 1937 masterwork, Guernica.  Picasso's predilection for monochromy was recently the subject of a major retrospective at the Guggenheim entitled Picasso, Black and White.  In the catalogue for that exhibition, Carmen Giménez discussed how Picasso often returned to a monochromatic palette at major junctures in his career, and how many artists believed its successful application to be the benchmark for artistic success.  "Gray was the quintessential color of the classical tradition, in which outline predominated over chromatic effect.  Cézanne affirmed that the use of gray elevated a painter to the highest rank. 'Until you've painted a gray, you're not a painter. [...]  You're not a painter as long as you haven't painted grays.  Gray is the enemy of all painting, said Delcroix.  No, you're not a painter until you've painted gray,' he told Joachim Gasquet, venturing furthermore that gray offered the possiblity of attenuating the potential conflict between the outline and various specific areas....We might add here a long list of both historical and contemporary artists who have highlyted the fundamental role played by gray, including a strict contemporary and even rival of Picasso's, Juan Gris, who went so far as to take 'gray' (gris in Spanish) as his surname."  (C. Giménez, Picasso, Black and White (exhibition catalogue), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2012-13, pp. 29-30).

Although we can see the lingering deconstructive tendencies of Cubism in this picture, Femme à la robe rose is distinctly a product of Picasso's Neo-Classical period of the late 1917-1925.  The term 'Neo-Classical' refers to the artist's conscious affiliation with the art of the Greek and Roman era and his attempt to incorporate a similar formal precision and clear draftsmanship into his art.  Picasso's focus on the classical age was a product of a larger movement, or 'call to order,' that dominated the avant-garde after World War I, but his approach to this aesthetic was influenced by more personal factors.  At this point in his life Picasso was already one of the most celebrated artists of Europe, and he sought to align himself with the great artists of the past.  The predecessor for whom he had profound respect was the French Neo-Classical painter Ingres, whose serene and timelessly beautiful portraits of regal women may have inspired the mood of the present work. 

Femme à la robe rose remained in Picasso's private collection until his death in 1973.  The picture then belonged to Bernard Picasso, the grandson of Picasso and Olga.  It was later acquired by the popular American novelist, Michael Crichton.