Lot 24
  • 24

Pablo Picasso

3,500,000 - 5,000,000 USD
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • Violon
  • Oil, sand and charcoal on canvas
  • 21 5/8 by 17 in.
  • 55 by 43.2 cm


Leo & Gertrude Stein, Paris (acquired from the artist circa 1912)

Gertrude Stein, Paris (acquired complete ownership circa 1913-14)

The Estate of Gertrude Stein (acquired from the above in 1946)

André Meyer, New York (acquired in 1968 and sold: Sotheby’s, New York, October 22, 1980, lot 34)

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner



New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art & San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, Four Americans in Paris: The Collections of Gertrude Stein and her Family, 1970-71

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914, 2011, no. 21, illustrated in color in the catalogue

San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art; Paris, Grand Palais & New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde, 2011-12, no. 262, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, oeuvres de 1912 à 1917, vol. 2**, 1942, no. 368, illustrated pl. 178 (with incorrect measurements)

Frank Elgar & Robert Maillard, Picasso, 1955, illustrated p. 62

José Camón Aznar, Picasso y el Cubismo, 1956, illustrated fig. 7

Edward Burns (ed.), Gertrude Stein on Picasso, New York, 1970, mentioned p. 84

Franco Russoli & Fiorella Minervino, L'opera completa di Picasso cubista, Milan, 1972, no. 536, illustrated p. 113

Pierre Daix & Joan Rosselet, Le Cubisme de Picasso, Neuchâtel, 1979, no. 515, illustrated p. 288

Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso: Cubisme (1907-1917), Barcelona, 1990, no. 841, illustrated p. 297

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1912, Violon belongs to an immensely important period of artistic development for Picasso which saw the beginning of his shift from analytic to synthetic cubism. Using the motif of a guitar – or as in the present painting, a violin – Picasso embarked on a series of works in which he developed the cubist idiom of the previous decade, exploring a range of materials from the cut paper and newspaper of his papiers collés to the sand of Violon and the thick cardboard of his cutouts. These works are characterized by a focus on objects that enabled Picasso to explore new representational possibilities. As Anne Umland writes, the “manipulation of objects – many of which, like the guitar, define volumes (other musical instruments, bottles, wineglasses, cups), although they lack its extreme planarity – may have helped to compel a new visual vocabulary that was at once pictorial and sculptural in motivation and affect” (A. Umland, in Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 22).

Although Picasso initiated this exploration through his work with collage, Josep Palau i Fabre noted the importance of the oil paintings that he produced at the same time, writing: “one finds some compositions that seem to concentrate on the need to counterbalance the almost absolute spirituality of the papiers collés. These are works where the media has its own weight, deliberately emphasised by the artist, executed in oil and sand on canvas – as in Violon, partition et journal, Violon [the present work] – to which he adds lines of charcoal, and Violon en verre, painted in oil and sand on glass, which although they have a greater body and materiality than the paper, seem more ethereal as the result of their transparency and fragility” (Josep Palau i Fabre, op. cit., p. 294).   

In Violon Picasso used the same basic composition that he had employed in the collage Guitare, partition, verre, transforming the guitar into an elegant, upright violin. However, rather than assembling the image from layers of different papers, Picasso creates the illusion of a collage through his use of broad and intersecting blocks of color. These are beautifully juxtaposed against patches of delicate stippling and areas where the sand forms a richly textured surface. The combination of these different painterly effects offers a striking counterpoint to the papiers collés and makes Violon an important contribution to Picasso’s exploration of material form at this pivotal period in his artistic development.      

Violon was acquired directly from Picasso by his close friends and patrons, Leo and Gertrude Stein. The siblings lived together in a studio and apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris between 1903 and 1914, during which time they became two of the most influential and important collectors in the world. As Gary Tinterow writes: “The Stein studio was the crossroads of the modern art world, and it is impossible to overstate the impact of those encounters: it was there that Pablo Picasso would find Henri Matisse, American artists would meet Europeans, and dealers would meet collectors, and they all would discover the work of Picasso and Matisse and often the men themselves” (G. Tinterow, in The Stein’s Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 71).

The year 1912 was a pivotal moment in Gertrude Stein’s emergence as a collector in her own right. Following the success of the publication of her first word portraits in Alfred Stieglitz’s journal Camera Work, Gertrude began purchasing works by Picasso, acquiring the present work along with Guitare sur une table during the course of that year. It was also at this time that Leo Stein began to formally distance himself from Cubism. When he left Paris for Italy in 1914 they split the collection and the Picassos stayed with Gertrude – Violin remained in her collection until her death in 1946, hanging in a number of different locations in the studio of the rue de Fleurus apartment.  

The work later formed part of the collection of André Meyer. One of the leading investment bankers of his generation and close friend and advisor to the Kennedys and Jackie Onassis, Meyer was also known as a discerning collector. His tastes ranged from original music scores to furniture, but he also acquired works by some of the most celebrated figures of nineteenth and twentieth century art from Manet, Cézanne and Van Gogh, to Picasso and Gris. A renowned philanthropist, he was a generous patron of many of America’s best-known institutions and a number of the paintings formerly in his collection now adorn the walls of The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.