Please note that in the print catalogue for this sale, this lot appears as number 7T.
Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso: From the Ballets to Drama, (1917-1926), Barcelona, 1999, no. 1119, illustrated p. 301 (as measuring 79.5 by 68 cm)
Picasso's focus on the Classical age was a product of a movement, or 'call to order,' that dominated the avant-garde in France after World War I. This movement promoted linear precision and clear draftsmanship in art akin to the artistic style of Western antiquity. Its overarching socio-political goal was to cast France as the center of the new 'golden age' of civilization. This post-war cultural preoccupation could not have come at a better time for Picasso, who had all but exhausted Cubism by this point and was looking for a new way to challenge himself. Together with Jean Cocteau, Picasso traveled to Italy in 1921 to study the Latinate origins of art in Naples and Pompeii. According to John Richardson, one of the objects that had the most profound effect on him was the head of the Farnese Juno, whose solid features appear in several of his head studies from the early 1920s. Richardson explains, "Picasso occasionally gives her idealized classical features a look of Olga, or his American friend Sara Murphy, or his former fiancée Irène Lagut, or conceivably, one of the nannies Olga hired and fired.... References to the Farnese marbles would recur whenever Picasso's imagery took on a classical tinge" (J. Richardson, ibid., p. 13).
Although Richardson tells us that the women in Picasso's pictures from this period were basically an amalgam of many influences in Picasso's life, one cannot help but relate Picasso's biography to his art when looking at Tête de femme. One of the possible inspirations for the present work was, of course, the artist's wife Olga. Olga's sturdy bone structure – her long straight nose, the sweeping arch of her brow and the graceful oval shape of her face – were perfectly suited to the type of linearity and solidity that characterized Picasso's Neo-Classical undertaking and had provided the inspiration for several of Picasso's paintings in the early 1920s.
The first owner of this work was Justin K. Thannhauser, a prominent German art dealer who is considered a pillar of the Modern Art movement in Europe. This work was also in the collection of the esteemed Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York prior to its deaccession and sale to A. Alfred Taubman in 1983.
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