Lot 9
  • 9

Pablo Picasso

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • Femme assise
  • signed Picasso (upper right)
  • pen and ink on paper
  • 19.7 by 14cm.
  • 7 3/4 by 5 1/2 in.


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris

Saidenberg Gallery, New York

Richard K. Weil, St. Louis

Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above in 1985)

Vivian Horan, New York (acquired from the above in 1987)

Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1987


Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Aus privaten Sammlungen, 1986, no. 45, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1906)

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Picasso: der Maler und seine Modelle, 1986, no. 61, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1906)

Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Picasso: Drawings, Watercolors, Pastels, 1988, no. 6, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1906)

Balingen, Stadthalle, Pablo Picasso: Metamorphosen des Menschen: Arbeiten auf Papier 1895-1972, 2000, no. 58, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1906)


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, supplement aux volumes 1 à 5, Paris, 1954, vol. 6, no. 1463, illustrated pl. 175 (as dating from 1906)

Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso Vivo (1881-1907), Barcelona, 1980, no. 729, illustrated p. 293 

Catalogue Note

An exquisite pen and ink drawing executed in Barcelona in 1902, Femme assise is imbued with the sense of fragility and melancholy that was to become synonymous with this phase of Picasso's career. The year 1902 marked the apotheosis of Picasso’s celebrated Blue period (1901-1904) when the young artist created some of his most defining works, including Mélancolie (femme mélancolique), now in The Detroit Museum of Art. Poignant images of forlorn women lost in thought appeared throughout his notebooks of this time. The figure depicted in Femme assise stands out from these depictions of  anonymous women with gauntly stylised features; she is portrayed as a specific individual, an obviously attractive young woman with the almond-shaped eyes, elongated nose and suggestively curling lips of the artist’s friend and then lover Germaine.

The earliest works of Picasso’s Blue period were triggered by the suicide of Germaine’s lover and Picasso's close friend Carlos Casagemas in 1901. Driven mad by frustration over Germaine’s refusal to leave her husband, Casagemas attempted to shoot Germaine in a Paris café on the night of 17th February 1901. His shot missed but, believing he had killed Germaine, Casagemas turned the gun on himself and fired to deadly effect. Picasso was in Madrid at the time of Casagemas' death but, irresistibly drawn to the femme fatale who had been the object of his friend’s obsession, he took up with Germaine almost as soon as he returned to Paris. Their affair lasted only a short time and it was almost certainly over by the end of 1901 when she went to live with Ramon Pichot, another painter in Picasso's circle of expatriate Catalans. Picasso could not put her out of his mind, however, and Germaine continued to feature prominently in his œuvre. Her presence was a powerful reminder of the departed Casagemas, whom Picasso now mourned and eulogised openly in his paintings. Perhaps more significantly, however, Germaine's image had become irretrievably entwined with the wraithlike archetypes of female sexuality and suffering that continued to cast their spell on the artist.

The melancholy that had engulfed Picasso after the tragic event of Casagemas' suicide was further heightened by his financial situation. The money he made from his first major exhibition at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery in 1901 had quickly run out, so in January 1902, when he received some money from his parents, Picasso used it to return to Barcelona. He found a studio and resumed working, addressing the same melancholy subjects he had been painting in Paris. He sought his subjects among the poor and dispossessed on the streets of Barcelona whom he could paint free of charge and who seemed to correspond to a growing sense of malaise and morbidity in his own life. The beauty and potential of these women as vehicles for artistic expression was not lost on the young artist. As John Richardson notes: 'Where else could he find models that exemplified his equivocal view of sex as ecstatic and tender, but also guilt-inducing and bound up with suffering, even death?' (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, London, 1991, vol. I, p. 219).

The present work is recorded in Zervos as dating from 1906, however, as Palau i Fabre argues, its similarity in both subject and execution to a related drawing which Picasso executed in January 1902 and which was subsequently published in the March-April issue of Auba indicates that a date of 1902 is much more likely (J. Palau i Fabre, op. cit., no. 723).