Lot 28
  • 28

Pablo Picasso

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 GBP
2,322,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Compotier, mandoline, partition et bouteille
  • signed Picasso and dated 23 (lower right)
  • oil and sand on canvas


Alphonse Kann, Paris (acquired before 1940)

Confiscated from the above by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR Nr. KA 1059)

Hermann Göring, Germany (on whose behalf traded by Gustave Rochlitz with Paul Petrides, Paris on 9th February 1942)

Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris

Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired by 1976)

Private Collection, Portugal

Private Collection, Switzerland

Heirs of Alphonse Kann, Paris (restituted by the above in 1998)

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Pablo Picasso, 1967, no. 34, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Houston, The Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery, The University of Houston & San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of  Modern Art, Picasso, Braque, Léger. Masterpieces from Swiss Collections, 1975-76, no. 17, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Zurich, Galerie Art Focus, Picasso, 2000, no. 14, illustrated in colour in the catalogue; illustrated in colour on the dustjacket


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1923 à 1925, Paris, 1952, vol. 5, no. 187, illustrated p. 91

The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Neoclassicism II, 1922-1924, San Francisco, 1996, no. 23-246, illustrated p. 187

Pierre Daix, Picasso: Life and Art, London, 1993, mentioned p. 185

Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso: From the Ballets to Drama (1917-1926), Barcelona, 1999, no. 1434, illustrated in colour p. 400

Ronald Berman, Translating Modernism: Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Alabama, 2009, mentioned p. 34

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1923, Compotier, mandoline, partition et bouteille marks a pivotal moment in Picasso’s career. Recalling both his Cubist works of a decade earlier and the neo-classical style that had dominated his œuvre in the post-war years, the present work is a masterful synthesis of these very different approaches.

Picasso’s work was characterised by his versatility of style and radical innovation from the very beginning, yet in the years during, and directly following the First World War, the tension between his different stylistic approaches came to the fore. As Christian Zervos writes, ‘Picasso’s work between the years 1923 and 1925…oscillates between two parallel, but inverse, directions, so one reflects upon the past, whilst the other looks towards a future laden with promise’ (C. Zervos, op. cit., p. IX, translated from French). The present work is one of a series of still lifes, beginning as early as 1919, which offer variations on the compositional dialectic of a mandolin and a compotier (figs. 1 & 2). This consistency of subject matter allowed Picasso to focus his attention on formal experimentation. Employing the flat, geometric planes associated with his Cubist works, in Compotier, mandoline, partition et bouteille Picasso nevertheless avoids the rigid geometry of these earlier works through the softer contours and suggestive three-dimensionality of the central objects. His ingenious device of highlighting the white curves of the central compotier against the subtle, autumnal tones of the rest of the work further emphasises this implied figuration.

The darker background and the horizontal white lines that indicate the table project the objects forward so that they seem to float in an undefined space. These carefully orchestrated objects are presented to us in an abstract environment, removed from their normal context and as though set upon a stage. The rich opacity of the sand-blended pigment is strikingly tactile and it recalls the hyper-realism of the collage elements in Picasso's earlier Cubist work. Brigitte Léal has argued that ‘The very artifices of theatricality – illusionism, trompe l’œil – provided a springboard for Picasso’s use and reconciliation of two apparently antagonistic styles’ (B. Léal in Picasso & Things (exhibition catalogue), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1992, p. 31).

At the same time, the mixture of sand and paint and scratched white lines in the present work also anticipate the advent of Surrealism which would begin with the publication of the ‘First Manifesto of Surrealism’ the following year. Pierre Daix writes, ‘At the end of 1923 Compotier, mandoline, partition et bouteille, with its soft, hesitant forms, bears further witness to accidents of execution… And a short time later, in Bouteille et mandolin sur une table, Picasso made the trail even more aleatory, the results of slashings and nickings against a background that seems to have been sanded at random’ (P. Daix, op. cit., p. 185).

Compotier, mandoline, partition et bouteille was originally part of Alphonse Kann’s legendary collection, before being confiscated by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) following the German occupation of France in 1940. One of over a thousand works removed from Kann’s St. Germain-en-Laye estate, the work carries the notation ‘KA 1059’, distinguishing it as the 1059th work catalogued from the collection of ‘Kann, Alphonse’. Exchanged on behalf of Hermann Göring on an unknown date at Röschlitz, now Réchésy, France, the work eventually made its way to the Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris and then onto Galerie Beyeler in Basel, from where it entered private hands. Ultimately restituted to Kann's heirs in 1998, the work was acquired from them by the present owner the same year.