Lot 37
  • 37

Pablo Picasso

5,000,000 - 7,000,000 GBP
8,885,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center)
  • iron and steel
  • height: 105cm.
  • 41 1/4 in.


Estate of the artist

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

Acquired from the above by the late owner


Venice, Centro di Cultura di Palazzo Grassi, Picasso, Opere dal 1895 al 1971 dalla Collezione Marina Picasso, 1981, no. 328, illustrated in the catalogue

Munich, Haus der Kunst; Cologne, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle; Frankfurt, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut & Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Eine Ausstellung zum hundertsten Geburtstag. Werke aus der Sammlung Marina Picasso, 1981-82, no. 273, illustrated in the catalogue

Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art & Kyoto, Municipal Museum, Picasso, Masterpieces from Marina Picasso Collection and from Museums in USA and USSR, 1983, no. 201, illustrated in the catalogue

Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz & Düsseldorf, Kunsthalle, Picasso Plastiken, 1983-84, no. 197

Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria & Sidney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Picasso, 1984, no. 162, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Madrid, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, El Siglo de Picasso, 1988, no. 176, illustrated in the catalogue

Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Pablo Picasso, 1988-89, no. 121, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Artistes Espagnols du XXe Siècle, 1989, no. 46, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Picasso and the Age of Iron, 1993, no. 35, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Picasso Sculpteur, 2000, no. 293

Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie., Pablo Picasso Metamorphoses. Œuvres de 1898 à 1973 de la collection Marina Picasso, 2001, no. 103, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Bern, Kunstmuseum Bern, Picasso und die Schweiz, 2001-02, no. 167, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Pablo Picasso Metamorphoses. Works from 1898 to 1973 from the Marina Picasso Collection, 2002, no. 103, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Picasso: De la caricatura a las metamorfosis de estilo, 2003, no. 279, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Vienna, Albertina, Goya bis Picasso – Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2005, no. 163, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Roland Penrose, Picasso, London, 1971, the project discussed p. 15

Roland Penrose, Picasso. His Life and Work, Harmondsworth, 1971, the other version illustrated pl. XXVII, no. 1

Roland Penrose & John Golding (eds.), Picasso, London, 1973, no. 250, the other version illustrated in colour p. 150

Roberto Otero, Forever Picasso: An Intimate Look at His Last years, New York, 1974, the other version illustrated in a photograph p. 54

Pablo Picasso. A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1980, the other version illustrated p. 442

Marilyn McCully (ed.), A Picasso Anthology, Princeton, 1982, the other version illustrated p. 266

Pierre Daix & Edward Quinn, Picasso avec Picasso, Poitiers, 1987, the other version illustrated in a photograph pp. 290-291

Late Picasso: Paintings, Sculptures, Drawings, Prints 1953-1972 (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, the other version illustrated p. 299

Carsten-Peter Warncke & Ingo F. Walther, Pablo Picasso. Part I: The Works 1890-1936, Cologne, 1997, the other version illustrated in colour p. 579

Werner Spies, Picasso. The Sculptures, Catalogue Raisonné of the Sculptures, Ostfildern & Stuttgart, 2000, no. 643. 2a, the other version illustrated in colour p. 329 & p. 391

Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot & Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, the other version illustrated p. 43   

The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso’s Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Sculpture. The Sixties II, 1964-1967, San Francisco, 2002, no. 64-373, the other version illustrated p. 133

Elizabeth Cowling (ed.), Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose, London, 2006, the project discussed pp. 248-294

Picasso. Malen gegen die Zeit (exhibition catalogue), Albertina, Wien & K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2006-07, the other version illustrated in a photograph p. 283

Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski (exhibition catalogue), Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, 2007, illustrated in colour p. 13

Stephanie D’Alessandro, Picasso and Chicago: 100 Works, 100 Years (exhibition catalogue), The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2013, the other version illustrated in colour pp. 25 & 97

Catalogue Note

Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center) is one of two iron and sheet-metal maquettes that Picasso developed between 1962 and 1964, one of which was sent to the United States as the model for the large-scale sculpture planned for the Chicago Civic Center (later renamed the Richard J. Daley Center). In 1967 the design was enlarged and cast in welded iron and on the 15th August that year the final work was unveiled in the plaza outside the Civic Center building in Chicago (fig. 8). Standing at twenty metres high and completely dominating the surrounding environment, the work represented Picasso’s paramount achievement in monumental sculpture.

The design of Tête is a continuation of Picasso’s explorations of the female physique that began with his earliest cubist experiments. This experimentation was particularly pronounced in his sheet metal sculptures of the 1950s and early 1960s, where the medium allowed him to focus on building the face out of separate planes and opening up the body to reveal the space within (figs. 3 & 5). Perhaps inspired by this, in the early 1960s Picasso also produced numerous drawings and paintings of his second wife Jacqueline which are often characterised by a line that divides the two halves of the face down the centre (fig. 2). Among these, there are a number of drawings and an oil dating from the spring of 1962 that seem to relate directly to the two maquettes (C. Zervos, vol. XX: nos. 234-243); these drawings illustrate the gradual opening up of the space between the centrally parted hair and the elongated, flattened nose and neck, which in many of them is fashioned as a carved chair leg. The spatial complexity of the present work was central to Picasso’s early design process (fig. 4) and has its origins in his earliest work; as Werner Spies wrote in his catalogue raisonné of the artist's sculpture: ‘With its inclusion of empty space, the head in Chicago returned to elements from the designs for the monument to Apollinaire: the sculpture "of nothing, of a void".  The evocation of negative space and the overcoming of mass first observed in the Cubist Head of 1909 and then in the Guitars of cardboard or metal was one of Picasso's constant challenges. As a sculptor and modeler, Picasso repeatedly confronted the absence of mass and volume with the full spectrum of his own realizations’ (W. Spies, op. cit., p. 329).

Whilst Picasso was working on these new incarnations of the female figure from his studio in France, plans for a monumental sculpture that would crown the plaza of the Chicago Civic Center were underway. William Hartmann, acting on behalf of Chicago architects Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, contacted Roland Penrose in 1963 to ask his assistance in approaching Picasso about the project. Penrose agreed to help, writing to Picasso in May: ‘there is an ambitious project to speak to you about. Some American friends from Chicago have written and telephoned me twice to ask if you might be tempted to design the maquette for a monumental sculpture to be erected in the principal square in the centre of Chicago’ (quoted in E. Cowling, op. cit., p. 249). During this contracted period of negotiation Penrose had to tread carefully – Picasso was inclined to outbursts at these external pressures, often claiming that these demands left him no time for work. Penrose’s notebooks of the time record the first meeting between Picasso and the architects. He recalls that Hartmann brought a model of the proposed centre with him and Picasso appeared impressed by the scale of the project. It is interesting to note that Picasso’s initial inclination – as recorded by Penrose – was for a sculpture in iron, and, although he declared that that was just ‘today’s idea’ it was the one that would prevail. Picasso’s enthusiasm seemed to waver briefly, and following this meeting he made little or no effort to begin the project. The situation was made even trickier following the publication of Françoise Gilot’s account of her life with Picasso. Extremely upset, Picasso grew suspicious of those around him and it became increasingly difficult for Penrose to pin him down regarding his ideas for the Chicago project.

Initially Picasso suggested the enlargement of one of two 1928 wire works but it seems Hartmann’s preference was for an entirely new design. Penrose recalled the moment in March 1964 Picasso first showed him the new metal heads he was working on, ‘[he] showed me a new project for a great head made in metal with a strange connection in rods between the large sheets that suggested hair… [It] suggested to me the face of a mandril, but with great force and subtle appreciation of a woman’s head. I saw in this a new start for the Chicago project, great and quite astonishingly new. The connection between the profile and the hair with rods gave a transparency to the head, a balance between solidity and void, which I think can be very happy in skyscraper surroundings’ (quoted in ibid., p. 260).

Penrose’s notebooks and letters from the time document the difficulties he faced in persuading Picasso to undertake the commission. Hartmann did not see the sculpture until some months later after a number of unsuccessful attempts to visit Picasso at his home in Cannes and was immediately enthusiastic. During a subsequent visit with the architects there was some conversation and experimentation with the design of the maquette before Picasso decided against it, as Elizabeth Cowling explains, ‘Intoxicating though it had been to play with alterations to the Chicago sculpture, photographs taken of the head mounted on its abstract torso and with its hanging arms show an outlandish contraption, in comparison to which the original maquette looks irrefutable in its iconic but mysterious simplicity. Picasso had enjoyed the game as much as anyone but by the time Penrose and Hartmann left Mougins the maquette had been quietly restored to its original state’ (E. Cowling, ibid., p. 287). It was in this state that it was sent to Chicago as the model for the large-scale work which was eventually constructed out of Cor-ten steel (fig. 7) and unveiled before a crowd of thousands on the 15th August 1967 (fig. 8).

One of the two original maquettes was presented by the artist as a gift to the Arts Institute of Chicago, and Picasso chose to keep the present work in his own collection where it remained until his death in 1973, after which it passed to his granddaughter Marina Picasso.