For Picasso, the musketeer signified the golden age of painting, and allowed him to escape the limitations of contemporary subject matter and explore the spirit of a past age. Picasso’s inspiration for this figure and other masculine warriors of his late paintings can be traced to his Spanish childhood and his familiarity with Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The musketeer was a character that embodied the courtly mannerisms of the Renaissance gentleman, and Picasso now resurrected him for a twentieth-century audience. The artist’s rendering of this image was also his tribute to the work of two painters he had adored throughout his life: Diego Velázquez, whose portraits of seventeenth-century Spanish nobility and monarchs were clear sources of inspiration for the present picture, and the Dutch master, Rembrandt van Rijn, whom Jacqueline Roque credited as being a key influence on Picasso’s art of this period. It was through these reinterpretations and investigations of the Old Masters that Picasso reaffirmed his connection to some of the greatest painters in the history of art.
Brigitte Léal has considered what it meant for Picasso to be painting these historical characters in the late 20th century. She considers the cultural significance of the musketeer: "It was not without humor that Picasso created these characters, whose amorous adventures he chronicled in his etchings. Imagine painting musketeers in 1970! They were ornamental figures whose clothes were a pretext both for the blaze of blood red and golden yellow and for the resurgence of a newly found Spanishness" (Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot, Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 458). The present work is differentiated from other portraits of 1969 by the addition of a laurel wreath to the musketeer. Seldom used within his œuvre, the laurel wreath traditionally denotes a personal triumph.
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