Impressionist & Modern Art

Picasso's Sleeping Muse

By Sotheby's

Pablo Picasso's Le Repos is a highlight of New York's Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

There were many notable years in the long, dramatic career of Pablo Picasso, but 1932 stands out as particularly momentous. In this “year of wonders,” Picasso produced the most sensuous depictions of his great muse and lover Marie-Thérèse Walter. One of these, Le Repos, is a stunning and intimate portrait of the woman who would inspire some of the artist’s most iconic images.

Picasso often painted Marie-Thérèse in striking profile, accentuating her Grecian features, and in Le Repos we find the artist’s young lover asleep, her head resting serenely on her hands.  

PABLO PICASSO, LE REPOS, 1932. ESTIMATE $25,000,000–35,000,000.

The much older Picasso first saw Marie-Thérèse on the streets of Paris in 1927 when she was only seventeen years old. The relationship that ensued was kept quiet for several years, both due to the fact that Picasso was in fact still married to Olga Khokhlova and out of concern for his new lover’s age. Early in 1930, Picasso furnished Marie-Thérèse with an apartment not far from where he and Olga lived.  

Shortly thereafter Picasso acquired the seventeenth-century Château de Boisgeloup outside of Paris near Gisors, in the Normandy region. There he was able to spend time more freely with his young mistress and he began to make massive plaster sculptures inspired by her classical profile and strong athletic body, features that came to represent for him the personification of ripeness and fecundity.  


In the summer of 1932 Picasso was given his first major retrospective held at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris in June and July, and at Kunsthaus in Zurich from September to November. He chose to hang his recent portraits of Marie-Thérèse alongside his earlier Cubist and Surrealist compositions. It was at this hugely successful retrospective that Olga was first presented with the numerous depictions of a face that was clearly not her own and thus the reality of the other woman in her husband’s life.  

Immediately following the exhibition, Picasso returned to Boisgeloup. Olga and their son Paulo did not accompany him. Marie-Thérèse did. The intimacy that had been largely missing from the pictures that were exhibited in Paris now emanated from his depictions of his young muse asleep. In works from this series like Le Repos, Picasso’s attraction is evident. She is presented with a potent mix of physical attractiveness and sexual naivety. His passion now unleashed, the artist captures his muse perfectly in her tranquility and physical acquiescence.

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