Private Collection, France (sold: Sotheby's, London, 4th December 1996, lot 219)
Galleria d'Arte Maggiore, Bologna
Galería Levy, Madrid
Private Collection, Spain (acquired from the above in 2000. Sold: Christie's, London, 4th February 2015, lot 26)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Vitoria-Gasteiz, Fundación Caja Vital Kutxa, De Picasso a Barceló, 2010
The musketeers are understood to be disguised portraits of Picasso himself. Towards the end of his life, the image of the musketeer evoked Picasso’s Spanish heritage and his nostalgia for the youthful vigour of his early years. As Marie-Laure Bernadac has observed: ‘If woman was depicted in all her aspects in Picasso’s art, man always appeared in disguise or in a specific role, the painter at work or the musketeer-matador holding the implements of his virility – the long pipe, the dagger, or the sword. In 1966, a new and final character emerged in Picasso’s iconography and dominated his last period to the point of becoming its emblem. This was the Golden Age gentleman, a half-Spanish, half-Dutch musketeer dressed in richly adorned clothing. […] all of these musketeers are men in disguise, romantic gentlemen, virile and arrogant soldiers, vainglorious and ridiculous despite their haughtiness’ (Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot and Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 455).
Two exhibitions held in 2009 – Picasso: Challenging the Past at the National Gallery in London and Picasso: Mosqueteros at the Gagosian Gallery in New York – are part of an ongoing reassessment of Picasso’s late œuvre. The works of the last twenty years of Picasso’s life, including his images of musketeers and his variations on the theme of old master paintings, are increasingly seen as a fitting culmination to the career of the greatest artist of the twentieth century. His late heads and busts represent a psychological projection of a complex and multifaceted identity, an amalgamation of influences and personas that made up his iconography. As Simonetta Fraquelli wrote: ‘the extensive re-evaluation of his late work since his death has highlighted its undiminished power and originality. His capacity for emotional depth and painterly freedom in his late painting, together with his wide ranging engagement with the imagery of the great paintings of the past, was to have a lasting influence on the development of neoexpressionist art from the early 1980s onwards’ (S. Fraquelli, ‘Looking at the Past to Defy the Present: Picasso’s Painting 1946-1973’ in Picasso: Challenging the Past (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery, London, 2009, p. 146).
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