Lot 15
  • 15

Pablo Picasso

8,000,000 - 12,000,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Nu aux jambes croisées
  • Signed Picasso and dated 1903 (upper left)
  • Pastel and black crayon on paper
  • 22 1/2 by 18 in.
  • 57.5 by 45.8 cm


Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris

Dr. Falk Simon, Gothenburg

Matthiesen Gallery, London (as agent for the above)

Acquired from Dr. Simon circa 1955


Gothenburg, Museum of Art, Falk Simons Samling av Målningar och teckningar, 1955, no. 145, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Picasso, der Maler und seine Modele, 1986, no. 58, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Paris, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume; Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts & Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Picasso érotique, 2001-02, no. 39, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, 1997-2015 (on loan)


Alexandre Cirici-Pellicer, Picasso antes de Picasso, Barcelona, 1946, no. 186, illustrated

Alexandre Cirici-Pellicer, Picasso avant Picasso, Geneva, 1950, no. 178, illustrated

Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1895 à 1906, Paris, 1957, vol. I, no. 181, illustrated pl. 84

Pierre Daix & Georges Boudaille, Picasso 1900-1906, Neuchatel, 1966, no. IX 19, illustrated p. 225

Alberto Moravia & Paolo Lecaldano, L' opera completa di Picasso blue e rosa, Milan & Paris, 1970, no. 68, illustrated p. 93

Carsten-Peter Warncke & Ingo F. Walther (ed.),  Pablo Picasso, Werke 1890-1936, Cologne, 1991, vol. 1, illustrated in color p. 98

Fondation Pierre Gianadda, ed., Collection Louis et Evelyn Franck, Zurich, 1998, illustrated in color p. 77

The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, The Blue Period, 1902-1904, San Francisco, 2011, no. 1903-112, illustrated p. 137

Catalogue Note

Picasso created this stunning pastel nude in Barcelona in 1903.  The year marked the apotheosis of Picasso’s celebrated Blue period (late 1901-1904), and the present work is imbued with a sense of fragility and melancholy that was to become synonymous with this phase of his career.  The pictures of the Blue period are often characterized by poignant images of forlorn women and despondent men, often isolated and lost in thought.   This was the period when he created some of his most defining works, including Old Guitar Player and  Melancholy. This pastel, however, represents an even more fragile aspect of this period in the young artist’s life; when sex, melancholy, loneliness and vulnerability firmly took root in the artist’s psyche and would ultimately shape every successive period of his art for nearly a century. 

Picasso’s proclivity for prostitutes during this bacchanalian early phase of his life was well-documented in many of his drawings from this period.  Sketches of nude women, either alone or accompanied by the artist in sexual acts, appeared throughout his notebooks.  But the beauty of these women and their potential as vehicles for artistic expression was not lost on the young man. Through careful renderings, such as the present pastel, he was able to transform these anonymous women into modern-day allegorical figures such as Tragedy, Melancholy, or Sorrow.  The model in the present work could be interpreted as a penitent Magdalene, crouching in shame with her long hair cascading down her body.  What is so remarkable here are the nuances of her posture, which captures the hesitancy and vulnerability of this young woman.

The earliest works of Picasso’s Blue period were triggered by the suicide of his close friend Carlos Casagemas in 1901.  The melancholy that engulfed Picasso after this tragic event was further heightened by the occasional feelings of insecurity and loneliness that accompanied the young émigré during his first years in Paris and his visits to friends in Barcelona.  Financially insecure and a relative unknown within the art world at this point, Picasso nevertheless did not waiver in his creativity.  While in Paris, he immersed himself in Bohemian culture and intermingled with the more flamboyant characters of the demi-monde, including prostitutes, cabaret and circus performers, beggars and madmen.  And on his visits to Barcelona, he reunited with his old friends from Els Quatre Gats, who considered themselves “neurotic dilettanti” and encouraged young Picasso’s moody and introspective approach to his art.   The blue, absinthian haze of the pictures that he created during this time perfectly captures this creative atmosphere, and the present work is a revealing example.

Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot, and Marie-Laure Bernadac have written about the pictures of Picasso’s blue period and the essence of mood and mysticism that characterizes them all:  “The theme that underlies this series of seated women turned in upon themselves with their heads in their hands is the ancient and time-honored personification of Melancholy, which was revived by the Symbolists.  For the first time, Picasso even used the medium of sculpture to express the theme, modeling a terra-cotta figure that he fired in Paco Durrio’s kiln.  In these studies Picasso pursued to the point of exhaustion the pattern of an arabesque closing in upon itself or hollowing itself out to accommodate the ellipse of a table, a glass, or the weight of a child’s body.  Despite the precious nature of the materials he used – turquoise alloys rubbed with metallic gray or with gold marbled sapphire, whose surface appears either granular or melted into a glaze – all these portraits, drawn with a heavy jagged brushstroke, have a repellent quality [….]  As Sabartés wrote, ‘Picasso believes that sorrow is the foundation of life’” (B. Léal, C. Piot and M.-L. Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, pp. 56-60).