- Pablo Picasso
- Le Chevalier et les pages
- dated Vallauris jeudi 22.2.51. (lower centre)
- pen and brush and ink, wash and gouache on paper
Private Collection, Zurich
Barr & Ochsner GmbH, Zurich
Dickinson, London (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007
The Picasso Project, Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Fifties I, 1950-1955, San Francisco, 2000, no. 51-013, illustrated p. 41 (titled Le Chevalier dans l'arène)
Among the most fully developed of his works on this subject, Le Chevalier et les pages shows Picasso’s knight surrounded by a group of attendant pages. Picasso evidently felt this composition to be particularly successful as he subsequently worked it up into a larger oil painting now in the Musée National Picasso in Paris (fig. 1). The grouping of the figures, emphasised by the skilful juxtaposition of ornate lines with weightier areas of wash, suggests a carnival procession. This is further emphasised by the mask or jester’s cape that hangs down in front of the knight and the two legs that emerge, almost as an afterthought, from beneath what is revealed to be a pantomime horse. In creating this pantomime image Picasso may have had in mind the horse costume he made for the ballet Parade in 1917 (fig. 2) which shares the same features and creates a similar effect; as Neil Cox and Deborah Povey describe: ‘This anthropomorphic grimace gives expression to the more ridiculous, mischievous or even satanic side of the horse. Picasso persists in his representations with their strange characterisation of what is normally taken to be a noble creature’ (N. Cox & D. Povey, A Picasso Bestiary, London, 1995, p. 63).
However, in Picasso’s work the figure of the knight was also inextricably linked with that of the matador. During the 1950s Picasso was living in Vallauris and regularly attended the bullfights there; the imagery of this event - which was of almost totemic significance to the artist – can be found in all aspects of his work. In Le Chevalier et les pages this takes the form of the knight’s intricate and highly detailed armour which echoes the patterned costumes of the matador, but in another drawing from 1951 Picasso makes the connection explicit, placing his armoured knight in the bullfighting arena. In this respect Picasso’s knights – doubtless informed by Spain’s most famous caballero, the hapless Don Quixote – brilliantly capture the blend of nobility and pathos that lies at the heart of this figure.