Lot 1
  • 1

Pablo Picasso

350,000 - 450,000 GBP
1,265,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • La chouette
  • signed Picasso; signed Picasso and dated 5.1.53. on the underside
  • hand-painted terracotta


Estate of the artist

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

Galerie Krugier & Cie., Geneva (acquired from the above)

Acquired from the above by the present owner


New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective, 1980, illustrated in the catalogue

Venice, Centro di Cultura di Palazzo Grassi, Picasso. Opere dal 1895 al 1971 dalla Collezione Marina Picasso, 1981, no. 283, illustrated in the catalogue

Munich, Haus der Kunst, Pablo Picasso, Werke aus der Sammlung Marina Picasso, 1981, no. 250, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, The Pace Gallery, The Sculpture of Picasso, 1982, no. 25, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


André Verdet, ‘La griffe de Picasso’, in XXe siècle, March 1958, another variant illustrated in a photograph p. 14

Roland Penrose, The Sculpture of Picasso, New York, 1967, illustrations of other variants pp. 140-141

Gjon Mili, Picasso’s Third Dimension, New York, 1970, illustrations of another variant in colour pp. 132-133

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Picasso-Keramik, Hanover, 1970, illustrations of other variants pls. 32-33, 35-37 & 56

Werner Spies, Picasso Sculpture with a Complete Catalogue, London, 1972, illustration of a bronze cast p. 201

Georges Ramié, Picasso's Ceramics, New Jersey, 1974, no. 161, illustrations of other variants pp. 49-50 & 68-70

Francis Ponge, Pierre Descargues & Edward Quinn, De Draeger. Picasso, Paris, 1974, illustration of another variant p. 153

Dominique Bozo & Marie-Laure Besnard-Bernadac et al., The Picasso Museum, Paris, Paris, 1985, illustrations of other variants p. 216

Pierre Daix, Picasso avec Picasso, Paris, 1987, illustration of another variant p. 196; other variants illustrated in a photograph p. 230

Bernard Ruiz-Picasso (ed.), Ceramics by Picasso, Paris, 1999, vol. I, illustrations of other variants in colour pp. 524-529 & vol. II, pp. 81-82

Werner Spies, Picasso. The Sculptures, Paris, 2000, no. 403.III, illustrations of another variant in colour p. 254; illustrations of other variants p. 373

The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Fifties I, 1950-1955, San Francisco, 2000, no. 51-067, illustration of a bronze cast p. 61

Picasso sous le soleil de Mithra (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Pierre Gianadda, 2001, another variant illustrated in a photograph p. 2

Picasso: Fired with Passion (exhibition catalogue), National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2007, another variant illustrated in a photograph p. 29

Picasso. The Mediterranean Years 1945-1962 (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2010, another variant illustrated in a photograph p. 29

Catalogue Note

While Picasso was working in the Musée d’Antibes at the Palais Grimaldi, he adopted a small owl with an injured leg that had been found hiding in a corner (fig. 1). Françoise Gilot and Picasso tamed the bird and brought it back with them to Paris, keeping it in the kitchen of the studio on the rue des Grands Augustins where they also kept pigeons, canaries and turtle doves (fig. 1). Françoise describes Picasso's reactions to the owl in her memoirs: ‘Every time the owl snorted at Picasso he would shout, “Cochon, Merde”, and a few other obscenities, just to show that he was even worse-mannered than him, but Picasso's fingers, though small, were tough and the owl didn't hurt him. Finally the owl would let him scratch his head and gradually came to perch on his finger instead of biting it, but even so, he still looked very unhappy’ (F. Gilot, My Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 145). 

Executed in 1953, the present work is a charming example of Picasso’s limitless innovation and creative scope. The owl interested Picasso greatly, and alongside the horse and the bull, it was a subject he returned to frequently. Owls appeared in a number of paintings (fig. 2) and at least two lithographs, as well as a number of ceramics. However, it was this terracotta model that was subject to the greatest attention. The maquette for the present work was created in plaster on Christmas Day 1949. A couple of years later Picasso returned to the model and created a small edition of terracotta casts. Picasso treated these casts individually, painting them in a variety of ways, some with the dazzling monochromatic pattern found on the present work, others using colour and anthropomorphic features (fig. 3). A few examples of this model remained with the artist until his death and feature in numerous photographs of the artist’s studios. The present cast was inherited by his granddaughter, Marina Picasso, and was exhibited alongside the rest of her celebrated collection at a series of shows held in the early 1980s. Two of the painted terracotta casts from Picasso’s own collection are now in the Musée National Picasso in Paris (fig. 2) and another is in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.