Lot 15
  • 15

Pablo Picasso

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • Bouquet
  • Dated 7.11.69 II (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 57 1/2 by 44 7/8 in.
  • 146 by 114 cm


Estate of the artist

Marina Picasso (granddaughter of the artist; by descent from the above)

Acquired from the above


Avignon, Palais des Papes,  Pablo Picasso 1969-1970, 1970, no. 113

Miami, Center for the Fine Arts, Picasso at Work at Home (Selections from the Marina Picasso Collection), 1986, no. 145

Rome, Villa Medici, Pablo Picasso, Les Dernières Années, 1987-88, no. 122, illustrated in color in the catalogue   

Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne & London, The Tate Gallery, Late Picasso: Paintings, Scultpure, Drawings, Prints 1953-1972, 1988, no. 69 (no. 52 in London), illustrated in color in the catalogue

Tokyo, Seibu Art Forum & Ohtsu, Seibu Hall, Pablo Picasso, Collection Marina Picasso, 1990-91, no. 23, illustrated in the catalogue

Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Picasso Letzte Bilder, Werke 1966-1972, 1993-94, no. 20, illustrated in color in the catalogue 

Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie; New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Pablo Picasso Metamorphoses. Oeuvres de 1898 à 1973 de la collection Marina Picasso, 2001, no. 109, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Valencia, Ivam,  El fuego bajo las cenizas (de Picasso à Basquiat), 2005, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny - Musée Maillol, Le feu sous les cendres, de Picasso à Basquiat, 2005-06, illustrated in color in the catalogue 

Vienna, Albertina Museum & Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Picasso. Malen gegen die Zeit, 2006-07, no. 16, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1969, vol. 31, Paris, 1976, no. 492, illustrated pl. 151

Rafael Alberti, Picasso en Avignon. Commentaire à une peinture en mouvement, Paris, 1971, no. 34, illustrated

Jean Sutherland Boggs, Picasso & Things (exhibition catalogue), New York, 1992, discussed p. 342

Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot & Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, Madrid, 2000, no. 1131, illustrated in color p. 460

The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Sixties III: 1968-1969, San Francisco, 2003, no. 69-495, illustrated p. 267


Very good condition. Original canvas. Apart from one very small spot of retouching in the grey pigment on the right side towards the edge visible under ultra-violet light, 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

Painted in dashes and whirls of green, white, gray and black, Bouquet is one of four 'birthday flower pictures' from October and early November 1969 inspired by the bombardment of bouquets Picasso received as gifts for his eighty-eighth birthday. These canvases present an untamed tangle of vegetation onto which Picasso has projected anthropomorphic qualities.  Picasso would include this massive picture in his landmark exhibition at the Palais des Papes the next year, where it would  hang among his army of heroic Musketeer paintings.  Picasso seems to have had these characters specifically in mind when he painted this picture.  "Look at that rose," Picasso remarked in the midst of this painting campaign, "I clearly see a face in it.  The nose, the eyes, the mouth, everything, even the ears."  One can certainly apply such an interpretation on the present work, with its bulbous formations and limb-like stalks stretching from the vase.

In an essay entitled "A Face in the Flowers," John Richardson explains that Picasso had a complex relationship with the genre of flower painting since the beginning of his career, and these late-in-life canvases offer much more than what initially meets the eye: "We need to remember that the saleable flower pieces he had been obliged to turn out in his penniless Montmartre days had turn him against flowers.  This attitude explains his often unpretty treatment of them, for instance in the huge 1956 paintings of a ramshakle jardinière - an armature of silver twigs decorated with a wilting mauve bow - that he kept in the studio until it had deteriorated into cemetery wreckage.  An ironical vanitas. 'Don't bother to put them in water,' Picasso used to tell people who  brought him flowers.  'They're going to die anyway'" (J. Richardson, Picasso, Mousqueteros (exhibition catalogue), p. 29).

By the time he embarked on the series of pictures to which the present work belongs, Picasso's attitude towards this subject was far more thoughtful, possibly due to the political symbolism that "flower power" had taken on during the years of the Vietnam War. Flowers found their way into his pictures either festooning his Musketeers or being exchanged by lovers.  When Picasso completed this picture at the end of 1969, he was preparing for his momentous exhibition at the Palais des Papes in Avignon the following year, where over one hundred of his Musketeer paintings would make their debut.  Jean Sutherland Boggs suggests that perhaps Picasso felt that the still lifes would "provide relief from the seriousness of most of his subject matter."   Of the four still-lifes he created for the exhibition, the present work is one of the largest and most mechanical, incorporating inorganic elements and rigid angularity that alludes Picasso's complex approach to his subject matter.   Describing this canvas, Boggs notes, "the one of 7 November has flowers that could be made of cookie cutters or the other objects he used to find for his sculpture.  Heavy improbable flowers, fruits, and a leaf reaching out exuberantly in a painting which is almost monochromatic except for large areas of a green and faint touches of yellow" (J.S. Boggs, op. cit.).

The chromatic severity of Picasso's palette and its punctuation of vibrant color can most likely be explained by the fact that the artist painted still lifes at night in his studio.  "My night is magnificent, I even prefer it to a natural light," he once explained to the photographer Edward Quinn. "This light which sets off every object, these deep shadows which circle the paintings and are cast onto the beams, you will find in most of my still lifes.  Nearly all of them were painted at night" (quoted in E. Quinn, Picasso, Paris, 1974, p. 64).