Lot 6
  • 6

Pablo Picasso

Estimate
700,000 - 1,000,000 GBP
Sold
905,000 GBP
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Description

  • 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

Provenance

Estate of the artist

Private Collection, Zurich

Barr & Ochsner GmbH, Zurich

Dickinson, London (acquired from the above)

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007

Exhibited

Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Musée du Petit Palais, Hommage à Pablo Picasso. Peintures, Dessins, Sculptures, Céramiques, 1966-67, no. 144, illustrated in the catalogue

Literature

Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1946 à 1953, Paris, 1965, vol. 15, no. 183, illustrated pl. 108

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)

Catalogue Note

In the early months of 1951 Picasso seized upon a new subject – that of the chivalric knight of old – and over the following months he proceeded to explore this theme with his characteristic enthusiasm and imagination. This combination of single-mindedness with a restless creativity defined much of Picasso’s work; John Richardson once described this characteristic as, ‘a lifetime habit of working serially. He would seize on some subject or theme, devise an appropriately expressive idiom and abandon himself to its development’ (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso. Volume I: 1881-1906, London, 1991, p. 149). This is exemplified in his approach to the subject of the knight which he developed in a series of works that range from simple depictions of men in armour to more complex compositions.

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. 

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