Lot 23
  • 23

Pablo Picasso

6,500,000 - 9,500,000 GBP
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • Nu couché et tête d’homme
  • signed Picasso (upper left); dated 20./25./26.3.67. on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 97 by 130cm.
  • 38 1/8 by 51 1/8 in.


Sala Gaspar, Barcelona

Acquired from the above by the father of the present owners in 1971


Barcelona, Sala Gaspar, Picasso: pintura, dibujo, 1971, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1965 à 1967, Paris, 1972, vol. 25, no. 301, illustrated pl. 133

Catalogue Note

Painted in March 1967, Nu couché et tête d’homme is a stunning, brilliantly coloured example of one of Picasso’s favourite themes, that of the artist and model. Throughout the 1960s Picasso was consumed by a series of works on this subject, and executed several variations on the theme. This proved to be one of his most passionate and energetic projects, inspired by the final love of his life, Jacqueline Roque. In many compositions on this subject, the male figure is depicted with the painter’s attributes – a palette and paint brush, and often with an artist’s easel dividing the composition evenly between the man’s and woman’s domains. In others he is depicted as a musician seducing the woman with his flute (fig. 1). In the present work the man is seen in his incarnation as a musketeer. Whilst he is rendered with a wealth of vibrant colours, his presence is reduced to a bust confined to the corner of the composition, clearly dominated by his nude companion.

Jacqueline was Picasso’s devoted second wife who remained with him until the time of his death in 1973, and Picasso's renderings of Jacqueline constitute the largest group of images of any of the women in his life. The artist first met Jacqueline in 1952 at the pottery studio in Vallauris, while he was still living with the mother of his two children, Françoise Gilot. By 1954 Françoise had left the scene, and the unmistakable raven-haired beauty began to appear in Picasso's paintings. Unlike Françoise, Jacqueline was accepting of the notoriously temperamental artist and his blind obsession with his art. Her unflappable support won the artist's heart, and Picasso married her in 1961. The photographer David Douglas Duncan, who knew Picasso and Jacqueline well during these years, observed that the couple ‘lived in a world of his own creation, where he reigned almost as a king yet cherished only two treasures - freedom and the love of Jacqueline’ (D. D. Duncan, Picasso and Jacqueline, New York, 1988, p. 9).

While the model's appearance in Nu couché et tête d’homme is not a direct representation of Jacqueline Roque, the female figure possesses many of her recognisable features including her strong nose and jet-black hair. With her voluptuous curves and a pose of unrestrained abandon, the model clearly represents the object of the artist's desire. Picasso's waning sexual potency at this time is countered by his power of vision and creativity, by the swift, confident application of paint and the remarkably bold free-flowing treatment of colour. The love that Picasso felt for his wife is reflected in the passionate vitality and excitement radiating from the present work. Positioned directly in front of the viewer, her pose conveys a universality and eternal presence, identifying Jacqueline as the ultimate feminine representation.

In Nu couché et tête d’homme Jacqueline is flanked by a vibrantly rendered musketeer which is undoubtedly a form of self-portraiture for the artist. The iconography of the musketeer was indicative of Picasso's self-awareness in the last decade of his life. Gone from his paintings were the veiled references to the artist as the victorious gladiator or centaur, as these characters did not reflect Picasso's failing stamina and lost youth. The vainglorious musketeer was believed to be a more appropriate incarnation, offering a spectrum of interpretations that occupied the artist until the end of his life. ‘I have less and less time and I have more and more to say’, commented Picasso in his last decade (quoted in K. Gallwitz, Picasso Laureatus, Lausanne & Paris, 1971, p. 166). The freedom and spontaneity of his late work, together with the recourse of archetypical figures and symbols, reflect both a growing awareness of his mortality, as the artist sought to ward off death through a final burst of creativity, as well as a conscious decision to allow himself total liberty with both style and subject matter. Having gone through so many phases of stylistic and technical experimentation, Picasso now pared down his style in order to paint monumental works in quick, spontaneous brush-strokes. Rather than ponder the details of human anatomy and perspective, the artist isolated those elements of his subject that fascinated and preoccupied him, and depicted them with a contemporary style and a sense of wit entirely of his own.