Lot 33
  • 33

Pablo Picasso

900,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Buste d'homme
  • signed Picasso and dated 7.5.69. (upper left)
  • oil on corrugated cardboard
  • 72 by 50cm.
  • 28 3/8 by 19 5/8 in.


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the artist by 1970)

Annibale Scotti Casanova, Rome

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1969, Paris, 1976, vol. 31, no. 189, illustrated pl. 60

The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. The Sixties III, 1968-1969, San Francisco, 2003, no. 69-191, illustrated p. 158

Catalogue Note

In early May 1969 Picasso painted several oils, including the present Buste d’homme, on the theme of the musketeer, which became one of the key subjects of his late œuvre. The image of the musketeer allowed Picasso to escape the limitations of contemporary subject matter and explore the spirit of a past age. These characters embodied the courtly mannerisms of the Renaissance gentleman and signified the golden age of painting, reflecting the influence of Velázquez, Rembrandt and Rubens (fig. 1) on Picasso’s art. Picasso had devoted a large portion of his time and passion throughout the 1960s to the reinterpretation and investigation of the Old Masters, an experience in which he reaffirmed his connection to some of the greatest painters in the history of art. The musketeer series was a continuation of this interest and began, according to his wife Jacqueline Roque, ‘when Picasso started to study Rembrandt,’ but his appreciation of other great figures of the Renaissance, including Shakespeare, also influenced the appearance of these characters.


The musketeers are understood to be disguised portraits of Picasso himself, and their iconography is indicative of the artist’s self-awareness in his mature years. Towards the end of his life, the image of the musketeer evoked Picasso’s Spanish heritage and his nostalgia for the youthful vigour of his early years. As Marie-Laure Bernadac has observed: ‘If woman was depicted in all her aspects in Picasso’s art, man always appeared in disguise or in a specific role, the painter at work or the musketeer-matador holding the implements of his virility – the long pipe, the dagger, or the sword. In 1966, a new and final character emerged in Picasso’s iconography and dominated his last period to the point of becoming its emblem. This was the Golden Age gentleman, a half-Spanish, half-Dutch musketeer dressed in richly adorned clothing. […] all of these musketeers are men in disguise, romantic gentlemen, virile and arrogant soldiers, vainglorious and ridiculous despite their haughtiness’ (Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot & Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 455).


Buste d’homme and its companion musketeer heads and busts that Picasso executed in early May 1969 were all painted in quick succession and with an extraordinary sense of energy, bearing witness to the creative urge that characterised Picasso’s late years. Having gone through many phases of stylistic and technical experimentation, by this time Picasso had acquired a confidence of expression and freedom of execution that enabled him to paint works in quick, spontaneous brush-strokes. Rather than ponder over the details of human anatomy and physiognomy, the artist was able to isolate those elements of his subject that fascinated and preoccupied him, and to depict them with a contemporary style and a sense of wit entirely his own. At the same time Picasso is referencing his own earlier works, such as his early Cubist figures with their masque-like faces (fig. 4) and the stylised and highly abstracted portrayals of Dora Maar.


The exhibitions held in 2009 – Picasso: Challenging the Past at the National Gallery in London and Picasso: Mosqueteros at the Gagosian Gallery in New York – are part of an ongoing reassessment of Picasso’s late œuvre, and the works of the last twenty years of Picasso’s life are increasingly seen as a fitting culmination to the career of the greatest artist of the twentieth century. His late heads and busts represent a psychological projection of a complex and multifaceted identity, an amalgamation of influences and personas that made up his iconography. As Simonetta Fraquelli wrote: ‘the extensive re-evaluation of his late work since his death has highlighted its undiminished power and originality. His capacity for emotional depth and painterly freedom in his late painting, together with his wide ranging engagement with the imagery of the great paintings of the past, was to have a lasting influence on the development of neoexpressionist art from the early 1980s onwards’ (S. Fraquelli, ‘Looking at the Past to Defy the Present: Picasso’s Painting 1946-1973’ in Picasso: Challenging the Past (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery, London, 2009, p. 146).