Lot 16
  • 16

Pablo Picasso

6,000,000 - 8,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Tête de femme
  • Numbered 2/2 and stamped with the foundry mark C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE 
  • Bronze
  • Height: 19 7/8 in.
  • 50.5 cm


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (inv. no. 013119)

Pace Gallery, New York

Private Collection, New York

Acquired from the above in 1985


Roland Penrose, The Sculpture of Picasso, New York, 1967, no. 110, illustration of another cast p. 131

Werner Spies, Sculpture by Picasso, New York, 1971, no. 412, illustration of another cast p. 212

Werner Spies  & Christine Piot, Picasso: Das Plastische Werk, Stuttgart, 1983, no. 412, illustration of another cast p. 232

Edward Quinn & Pierre Daix, The Private Picasso, Boston, 1987, photograph of the plaster version p. 62

Werner Spies & Christine Piot, Picasso, The Sculptures, Stuttgart, 2000, no. 412, illustration of another cast p. 373

The Picasso Project, ed., Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture, The Fifties I, 1950-1955, San Francisco, 2000, no. 51-071, illustration of another cast p. 62

Picasso, The Mediterranean Years, 1945-1962 (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, London, 2010, photograph of the plaster version p. 312

Picasso, Picasso and Françoise Gilot, Paris-Vallauris, 1943-1953 (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2012, photograph of the plaster version p. 243

Picasso Sculpture (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2016, photograph of the plaster version p. 202

Catalogue Note

Picasso’s dynamic, three-dimensional Tête de femme is among his most powerful interpretations of the human face and one of his strongest achievements in the medium of sculpture. This larger-than-life bust portrait conveys the model’s strength of character and imposing presence as a figure in Picasso’s life following the war. The model for the present work is the artist's lover and muse from this period, Françoise Gilot. Within the trajectory of Picasso's portraiture, Françoise's visage has come to signify a time of intense happiness for the artist. The two artists met in May 1943, while Picasso was still in 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 muse and their children. 

With triumphant presence and exceptional confidence, Tête de femme conveys the sense of optimism characteristic of Picasso’s post-war oeuvre. Over the years Picasso's depictions of Françoise became increasingly stylized, often conveying a sense of fecundity and grace. Françoise's youthful spirit and her interest in art not only inspired Picasso, but also encouraged a new direction in his portraiture. The French photographer Brassaï met Françoise at Picasso's studio on the Rue des Grands-Augustins in December of 1943 and was instantly taken with the young artist: "Very young -- seventeen or eighteen years old -- passionate about painting, eager for advice, impatient to prove her talent... I was struck by the vitality of this girl, by her tenacity to triumph over obstacles. Her entire personality radiated an impression of freshness and restless vitality" (Brassaï, quoted in William Rubin, ed., Picasso and Portraiture, Representation and Transformation (exhibition catalogue), New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Paris, Grand Palais, 1996-97, p. 415). With Françoise by his side, Picasso gradually abandoned the high-keyed palette and distortive figuration that had dominated his wartime portraits of Dora Maar and embraced a more liberated approach.

This sensibility imbues Tête de femme with elegance and clarity. The figure here 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" (Frank Elgar, Picasso, New York, 1972, p. 123). Her arresting gaze forms the focal point of the sculpture, engaging the viewer in an unavoidable dialogue.

The present work was executed in Vallauris, a coastal extension of Antibes in southeastern France where Picasso lived from 1948-1955. Picasso’s Vallauris period was undoubtedly the most productive sculptural period within his oeuvre. From his legendary collages made with chair caning and newspaper to his sculpture of a bull's head made from a bicycle seat, Picasso's most ingenious works of art were often created from objects that he found in daily life. By the 1950s, he had taken this process a step further – assembling objects that he found in the environs of his home and casting them in plaster, and then casting the completed sculpture in bronze to unify the piece with a homogeneous medium. Picasso often made preliminary sketches of these works, which detail how he would implement the miscellaneous objects within the body of the composition. While working in his studio of Le Fournas in Vallauris between 1950-53, the artist executed a considerable number of these sculptures in the forms of goats, birds and other animals, creating a veritable menagerie from objets trouvés. Commenting once to his wife Françoise Gilot on this production, Picasso explained, "My sculptures are plastic metaphors. It's the same principle as in painting. I've said that a painting shouldn't be trompe l'oeil…but…trompe l'esprit. I'm out to fool the mind rather than the eye.  And that goes for sculpture too" (quoted in Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1966).

Tête de femme
exemplifies Picasso's intentions to challenge the mind's perception of the visual. Tête de femme was cast in an edition of two at the Valsuani foundry; one unnumbered cast and no. 2/2. There is also an original in plaster and fired clay which measures 51 cm in height.