T his wonderful portrait, dated 14 September 1936, is one of Picasso’s first depictions of Dora Maar who would become his lover, subject and muse. Born Henriette Theodora Markovitch in 1907, Dora was a well-known photographer at the time who had been drawn into the orbit of the Surrealists and had participated in their exhibitions.
As a liberated woman, an artist and an intellectual, Dora Maar captivated Pablo Picasso when they first met at the Café des Deux Magots on the Left Bank in Paris. He would depict her in a variety of ways over the next ten years of their relationship including in the famous portrayals of Dora as the “Weeping Woman”.
This elegant portrait was drawn using a graphite pencil and a blending stump on paper. Dora is shown in a head-and-shoulders pose, her face turned three-quarters to the side, gazing out of frame. This realistic portrait is imbued with Picasso's tenderness for his muse's features, and as such it is emblematic of the first few months of their relationship.
Her clear, penetrating eyes, arched eyebrows, straight nose, strong chin, pouting lips and the upright, determined way she carries her head all give her a striking presence. Her hair is tied up in a traditional Andalusian style, and she is wearing a typically Spanish polka dot dress with puffed sleeves.
These portraits were not usually sketched from life; they were drawn from memory. Therefore, it is possible that Dora did not pose in Andalusian-style attire; Picasso may have portrayed his lover in this clothing which reminded him of his native land.
A seminal work of the period, this portrait reveals the serenity of the beginning of the relationship between the world-famous artist and his muse. Moreover, what makes this drawing so remarkable is that it shows that Dora cannot simply be reduced to the figure of the 'Weeping Woman' in the artist's oeuvre. It is significant that she kept this portrait with her for the rest of her life. Purchased by the present owner in the Dora Maar estate sale in 1998 this is the first time this works has appeared at auction since.