Lot 6
  • 6

Pablo Picasso

350,000 - 500,000 GBP
365,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Saltimbanque
  • signed Picasso and dated 22 (upper right)
  • pen and brush and ink on paper


Felix Wildenstein, Paris

Galerie Seligmann, Paris

Richard & Florence Weil, New York (acquired from the above in 1954)

Weil Family Partnership (by descent from the above. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 13th May 1997, lot 32)

Purchased at the above sale by the late owner


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picassoœuvres de 1923 à 1925, Paris, 1952, vol. 5, no. 5, illustrated pl. 94

The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Neoclassicism II, 1922-1924, San Francisco, 1996, no. 22-252, illustrated p. 88

Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso, From the Ballets to the Drama (1917-1926), Barcelona, 1999, no. 1296, illustrated p. 352 (titled Meditative Seated Harlequin)

Catalogue Note

The present work is one of a group of eight ink drawings executed during the winter of 1922-23 in which Picasso returns to the enigmatic figure of the harlequin. The harlequin first appeared in his work in 1904 and became an important motif, particularly during the years from 1914 when Picasso began working in the classical style that came to define his rappel à l’ordre (fig. 1). In the present work the figure of the harlequin fills the sheet, his legs and torso dwarfing the chair and giving the sense of a large body folded within the confines of the frame. The elegant lines of the body and the calm, detached gaze of the performer create a sublime image of Neoclassical grace.

Discussing Picasso’s work of the early 1920s, Josep Palau i Fabre notes: ‘The Italianism of the period is underlined, as from the end of the year, by the presence of a young harlequin or acrobat on a chair, who adopts a wide variety of postures, although his legs are always crossed and his expression invariably one of preoccupation. Who is this harlequin? What do his preoccupation and his ill-humoured poses mean? He may be a transposition or transpositions of the artist himself embodied in the harlequins and saltimbanques he may have seen at Christmas in Les Invalides or elsewhere in Paris, allowing him to camouflage his feelings, or (I should say) a single feeling expressed through different media: Indian ink, sepia, sanguine and watercolour’ (J. Palau i Fabre, op. cit., p. 354).

Michael C. Fitzgerald writes of the years 1922 and 1923 : ‘While retaining the monumental proportions of his recent compositions (but not their massive volumes), Picasso passed through portraiture to create a body of work devoted to the costumed circus performers and sentimental family groups that had been his frequent subjects before Cubism. Moreover, he adapted the saturated colors, flowing glazes, and exquisite draftsmanship he had employed to render them. In a sense these pictures close the circle on this phase of Picasso's Neoclassicism by returning to his point of departure in the spring of 1914, when he probably responded to the exhibition of his Blue and Rose paintings at the auction of the Peau de l'Ours’ (M. C. Fitzgerald, ‘The Modernist's Dilemma, Neoclassicism and the Portrayal of Olga Khokhlova’, in Picasso and Portraiture, New York, 1996, p. 322).