Lot 16
  • 16

Pablo Picasso

3,500,000 - 5,000,000 USD
3,890,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Buste de femme
  • Signed Picasso (upper left); dated 26 Juin 53 on the reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 24 by 19 7/8 in.
  • 61 by 50 cm


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the artist) 

Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, New York

Acquired from the above


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Oeuvres de 1946 à 1956, Paris, 1965, no. 270, illustrated p. 149

The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, The Fifties I, 1950-1955, San Francisco, 2000, no. 53-052, illustrated p. 127

Catalogue Note

Picasso's portrait dates from the end of his relationship with the painter Françoise Gilot. Françoise, who had a son and daughter with the artist, was the only woman who would ever have the strength to leave Picasso, and her presence in his life had a great impact on his paintings.  The present work, which dates from the summer of 1953, was painted when tensions between the couple were at their height and only weeks before Françoise would end the relationship.  That dramatic period is captured with expressive force in this sharp black and white rendering of Françoise.  Although he depicts her with a monochromatic severity, a lingering sensitivity to the woman is betrayed by the touches of soft color in her cheeks, lips and breasts.

Picasso met Françoise in May 1943, during his tumultuous relationship with Dora Maar, and it was not until 1946 that they settled in Cap d'Antibes in the south of France.  The period that followed was marked by great personal fulfilment, during which Picasso was, probably more than at any other time, devoted to his family, including the couple's two children, Claude and Paloma.  This happiness in private life spilled into the artist's work, resulting in a number of portraits of his lover and their children, including the monochromatic portrait of his daughter Paloma that he painted around the same time as this picture (lot 20).  Over the years Picasso's depictions of Françoise became increasingly stylized, from painting her as a "Woman-flower" to those that essentialize her image.  The present work could perhaps be considered in contrast to the contemporaneous activities of Picasso's arch-rival Henri Matisse, whose compositions at this time were governed by chromatic saturation. 

Having left behind the innocent, dream-like portraits of Marie-Thérèse Walter, as well as the dramatic, distorted depictions of Dora Maar, Picasso found a new style for his portraits inspired by Françoise, characterized by a certain calm elegance and poise that carries throughout all his depictions of her over the decade they were together.  In the present painting, she adopts an almost formal pose, looking straight at the viewer.  As Frank Elgar pointed out: "The portraits of Françoise Gilot have a Madonna-like appearance, in contrast to the tormented figures he was painting a few years earlier" (F. Elgar, Picasso, New York, 1972, p. 123).  

Discussing Picasso's depictions of Gilot, Michael Fitzgerald wrote: "Picasso's portraits of Françoise also were not drawn from life; yet the dialogue between artist and subject influenced their form. Françoise was not interested in truly naturalistic images, and, unlike in the cases of Picasso's other wives and mistresses, there are almost none that reproduce her features strictly. Within the context of portraiture, this radical reconfiguration of Françoise's face takes a step beyond Picasso's previous renderings of her; yet it does so by adopting techniques that he had employed for many years" (M. FitzGerald, 'A Triangle of Ambitions: Art, Politics, and Family during the Postwar Years with Françoise Gilot,' in Picasso and Portraiture, London, 1996, p. 416).