Lot 19
  • 19

Pablo Picasso

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • La femme qui pleure I
  • signed Picasso (lower right) and numbered 8/15 (lower left)
  • dry point, aquatint, etching and scraper on Montval laid paper
  • plate size: 69 by 49.5cm.; 27 1/8 by 19 1/2 in.
  • sheet size: 78 by 57.5cm.; 30 3/4 by 22 5/8 in.


Estate of the artist (inv. 20393)

Marina Picasso (the artist's granddaughter; by descent from the above)

Acquired from the above by the late owner


Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz,  Linie, Licht und Schatten. Meisterzeichnungen und Skulpturen der Sammlung Jan und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 1999, no. 139, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, The Timeless Eye. Master Drawings from the Jan and Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski Collection,1999, no. 153, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Bern, Kunstmuseum, Picasso und die Schweiz, 2001-02, no. 121, illustrated in the catalogue

Munich, Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 192, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Georges Bloch, Pablo Picasso, catalogue de l'œuvre gravé et lithographié, 1904-1967, Bern, 1971, vol. I, no. 1333, another impression illustrated p. 1170

Felix A. Baumann, Pablo Picasso Leben und Werk, Stuttgart, 1976, no. 255, another example from the edition illustrated p. 138

Brigitte Baer & Bernhard Geiser, Picasso peintre-graveur, Bern, 1986, vol. III, no. 623.6, another example from the edition illustrated p. 123 (incorrectly catalogued as state VI)

Brigitte Baer, Picasso peintre-graveur, addendum au catalogue raisonné, Bern, 1996,  no. 623, another example from the edition illustrated p. 561

Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot & Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, no. 785, another example from the edition illustrated p. 322

Elizabeth Cowling, Picasso. Style and Meaning, 2002, no. 579, another example from the edition illustrated p. 599

Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso. From the Minotaure to Guernica (1927-1939), Barcelona, 2011, no. 1017, another example from the edition illustrated p. 332 (incorrectly catalogued as state VIb)


A superb impression printed on cream Montval laid paper, hinged to the mount at all four corners verso. There are some old hinges on the reverse of the sheet. There is a small pale stain to the upper left margin and a few small fox marks to the upper right margin. This work is in excellent condition. Colours: In comparison to the printed catalogue illustration, the black tones are stronger and the work overall has a less warm appearance in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

La femme qui pleure I is arguably Picasso's most important print and without doubt one of the most significant prints of the 20th Century. The image is highly arresting, emanating a powerful presence both through the sheer physicality of the sitter and through the emotionally charged atmosphere of the work. In 1937 Picasso found himself in a maelstrom of personal and political anguish. It would lead him to create one of his greatest paintings, Guernica (fig. 2), and alongside it the important series of paintings, drawings and prints of the La femme qui pleure. The motif of the Weeping Woman first made an appearance in a drawing towards the end of May and in the coming months became a subject Picasso would return to repeatedly (figs. 3 & 4). Although the composition as it appears in the etching and in many of the paintings does not feature in the finished version of Guernica, it became the vehicle through which Picasso explored many of the themes central to the mural.

In January 1937 Picasso had started work on a pair of etchings in support of the Republican side in the Spanish civil war titled Sueño y mentira di Franco (Dreams and lies of Franco). In the same month he received an invitation to paint a large mural for the Spanish Pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris that summer. He saw the opportunity to make a great political statement and experimented with various possible subjects to achieve this through the spring. On 26th April the German air force, at the request of Franco's forces, repeatedly bombed the Basque town of Guernica, all but levelling the town and killing many civilians. The event caused international outrage and was the catalyst to Picasso finding a subject through which he could channel his own abhorrence and anger at events unfolding in his native country.

Motivated by a sense of moral outrage and determined to show his support for the Republican cause, Picasso turned to printmaking to more readily disseminate his visual protest. Idiomatically apt, the Weeping Woman spoke directly of the Spanish tragedy, her shattered features fulfilling the role of the modern Mater Dolorosa. On 1st July Picasso began the first state of La femme qui pleure I, outlining the figure with urgent economy. Gradually working on the plate over the course of two days, the image began to evolve. The tones of her face and hair were fleshed out with diverse hatching and aquatint washes until Picasso worked so extensively on the sixth state causing large areas to fall into tenebristic relief. The seventh state was the most accomplished work or the group, balanced between impressively achieved graphic effects and legibility. In total Picasso printed forty proofs, but only the 3rd (fig. 3) and 7th states were numbered and signed by the artist.

As ever in Picasso's art, events in his own life also impacted very significantly on the development of the image providing a creative energy which would work in tandem with his worldly concerns. The turmoil in Picasso's private life would have a vital bearing on the image. Certainly his personal life was more complex than at any time in preceding decades, fraught as it was with the emotionally complex, overlapping relationships with the three women who in one way or another shared his life at this time. The Weeping Woman is often described as a portrait of Dora Maar, his companion since the previous year of whom Picasso said 'For me Dora Maar is the weeping woman'. There are elements of Maar's physical appearance as Picasso depicted her in other portraits from this time evident in this composition. It has also been argued that characteristics belonging to Marie-Thérèse Walter, his mistress and mother to a child born to them in 1936, can also be identified, as well as those of Olga, his wife since 1918 with whom Picasso's relations were at an all-time low. One such example are the sitter's hands which are thought to depict those of both Maar and Walter. Maar, who kept her nails long, pointed and painted red, is represented by the talon-like left hand, whilst the other hand, with the nails bitten down is thought to be that of Marie-Thérèse.

Picasso created this masterpiece in the workshop of Roger Lacourière who enabled Picasso to realise fully the potential of the various processes of the intaglio medium. Beginning in July 1937 Picasso would work the subject through seven states using etching, aquatint and drypoint.

In harnessing elements from both his personal life and from the darkening political landscape of mid-1930s Europe, La femme qui pleure I is a work that expresses aspects of the human condition, reflecting themes that are at once personal and universal and which continue to resonate today.