Lot 5
  • 5

Pablo Picasso

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • Le Hibou noir
  • Signed Picasso and dated 8-11-52
  • Painted and glazed ceramic
  • Height: 13 1/4 in.
  • 33.7 cm


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the artist)

Robert von Hirsch, Basel (sold: Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, June 26-27, 1978, lot 759)

Acquired at the above sale


Roland Penrose, The Sculpture of Picasso, New York, 1967, illustrations of other variants pp. 140-41

Georges Ramié, Picasso’s Ceramics, Barcelona, 1974, no. 109, illustrated p. 216

Marie-Laure Besnard-Bernadac, The Picasso Museum, Paris, Paris, 1985, illustrations of other variants p. 216

Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, ed., Ceramics by Picasso, Paris, 1999, illustrations of other variants, vol. I, pp. 524-29 and vol. II pp. 81-82

Werner Spies, Picasso SculpteurCatalogue raisonné des sculptures établi en collaboration avec Christine Piot, Paris, 2000, no. 403.III, illustrations of other variants p. 373


Excellent condition. No significant cracks or losses to the surface. The plaster base shows some chips and old losses on the edges which have been toned. The painted surface and white glazing are both clean and stable.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

While Picasso was working in the Antibes Museum (Palais Grimaldi), he adopted a small owl with an injured leg that had been found hiding in a corner. Françoise Gilot describes Picasso’s reactions to the owl in her memoirs: “While Pablo was still working at the Musée d'Antibes [in 1946, the photographer Michel] Sima had come to us one day with a little owl he had found in a corner of the museum. One of his claws had been injured. We bandaged it and it gradually healed. We bought a cage for him and when we returned to Paris we brought him back with us and put him in the kitchen with the canaries, the pigeons and the turtledoves. He smelled awful and ate nothing but mice.  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” (Françoise Gilot, My Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, pp. 144-45). Executed in 1952, the present work is a magnificent example of the artist’s command over the sculptural medium. The owl was a subject that intensely interested Picasso and appeared in a number of his paintings (see Zervos, nos. 400, 401, 403, 404, 475-477, 573-575) and at least two lithographs, as well as a number of ceramics.


The present work was created in 1952 and painted by the artist to create an entirely unique version. Picasso’s focus on ceramics came to the fore shortly after the end of World War II. As Roland Penrose states: “Ceramics have the attraction for Picasso of combining painting and sculpture with utilitarian function. He has pursued each of these paths. There are tiles on which he has painted with boldness and sensitivity and a wide range of plates, vases, and pots. In his ceramic sculpture two of his most fundamental talents come equally into play: his ability to model clay in his hands and to draw rapidly with his brush on the surface. As a result he arrives at a complete fusion of sculpture and painting” (Roland Penrose, The Sculpture of Picasso (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1967, p. 30). The transition to ceramics as a medium for artistic expression both fascinated and provoked Picasso. His son Claude has vivid memories of the firing process at Vallauris: “Experimenting with the mixing of those non-existent colours was an interesting challenge for my father. Working with the primal elements fire and earth must have appealed to him because of the almost magical results. Simple means, terrific effect. How ravishing to see colours sing after infernal fires have given them life. The owls managed a wink now. The bulls seemed ready to bellow. The pigeons, still warm from the electric kiln, sat proudly brooding over their warm eggs.  I touched them. They were alive, really. The faces smiled. You could hear the band at the bullfight” (Claude Picasso in Picasso: Sculptor/Painter (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1994, p. 223)