Lot 6
  • 6

Pablo Picasso

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • Nus masculins (Les trois ├óges de l'homme)
  • signed Picasso (lower left)
  • oil on panel
  • 53.8 by 64.8cm.
  • 21 1/4 by 25 1/2 in.


Louis Carré & Co., Paris

Arthur Tooth & Sons, London (acquired in October 1952)

Marcel Mabille, Brussels (acquired on 11th March 1953)

Private Collection, Europe (by descent from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 2nd December 1986, lot 72)

Galerie Jan Krugier, Geneva (purchased at the above sale)

Private Collection, Asia (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 3rd November 2008, lot 68)

Purchased at the above sale


Paris, Grand Palais, Hommage à Picasso, 1966-67, no. 201, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Les trois âges de l'homme)

Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Picasso, 1968, no. 54 (titled Les âges de l'homme)

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Hommage à Picasso. 50 Picasso des collections belges 1902-1969, 1973, no. 35, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Les âges de l'homme)


Cahiers d'art, Paris, 1940-44, illustrated p. 33

Wilhelm Boeck & Jaime Sabartés, Picasso, Stuttgart, 1955, no. 164, illustrated p. 473 (titled Le peintre endormi dans son atelier)

Frank Elgar, Picasso et Léger: Deux Hommes, Deux Mondes, Paris, 1954, illustrated fig. 3 (titled Atelier au faune dormant)

Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1942 et 1943, Paris, 1961, vol. 12, no. 155, illustrated pl. 80

Francis Ponge & Pierre Descargues, Picasso de draeger, 1974, Paris, illustrated in colour pp. 106-107

The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Nazi Occupation, 1940-1944, San Francisco, 1999, no. 42-164, illustrated p. 166

Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot & Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, no. 856, illustrated p. 349 (titled The Three Ages of Man)

Picasso: The Artist's Studio (exhibition catalogue), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, 2001, no. 27, illustrated in colour p. 49 (titled The Three Ages of Man

Picasso Mosqueteros (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2009, illustrated in colour p. 31

Yo Picasso - Self Portraits (exhibition catalogue), Museu Picasso, Barcelona, 2013, illustrated in colour p. 160


The cradled panel is sound. There is a small area of abrasion to the right of the easel and two tiny, pinpoint losses just below the sleeping man. There is one tiny spot of retouching below the easel, and two further very minor spots of retouching below the mask visible under ultra-violet light. This work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration.
"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

Nus masculins, also known as Les trois âges de l'homme, combines the frivolity of youth, the mannered dedication of adulthood and the abandonment of old-age in the creative context of the artist’s studio. It has long been understood that Picasso's depictions of men were veiled self-portraits, and the present work, which is a metaphor for the stages of human development, could very well be interpreted as the artist's meditation on the progression of his own life. 

Although Picasso’s work of the war years varied considerably in stylistic handling, the prevailing mode was planar and angular, a continuing exploration of the fractured planes that had first appeared in his Cubist works of 1908. Nus masculins is an exception, returning to the more classical manner that had emerged in the 1920s and coexisted with the Surrealist style of the 1930s. As Christine Piot described, ‘returning to what was already a familiar theme in two works from 1942 – the sculpting and painting studio – Picasso again depicted the artist with a beard. In a painted wood panel from November 1942 [the present work], he embodied The Three Ages of Man in a single image of three naked men of different generations. Looking toward the future through a picture window, a young boy cheerfully plays with a kind of flute, perhaps an echo of The Pan Pipes from 1923. Behind him stands a bearded man, holding the mask of a faun – as in the drawing from April 23, 1936. In the foreground a middle-aged man with the build of the man in Picasso's drawings from 1953-54 sleeps stretched out on the floor’ (B. Leal, C. Piot & M.-L. Bernadac, op. cit., p. 347). Picasso would revisit the composition of the present work over a decade later in Le repos de faune (fig. 1), which transposes the same characters into a more overtly classical, Mediterranean landscape.

Executed in the middle of the war, the present work may perhaps be seen as Picasso's reassertion of European traditions and values in the midst of devastation, taking an age-old theme and reworking it using figures that had played significant roles in his own œuvre. It would be another ten years before his efforts of reinterpretation, as seen in his reprises of Femmes d'Algers and Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, would come into play once again in such a bold manner.