Lot 19
  • 19

PABLO PICASSO | Tête de femme

5,000,000 - 7,000,000 GBP
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • Tête de femme
  • signed Picasso (upper right); dated 5 (II), 6 Janvier 1963 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 73.8 by 55cm.
  • 29 by 21 5/8 in.
  • Painted on 5th-6th January 1963.


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above in 1969)

Private Collection, Italy (acquired from the above in 1971)

Sale: Sotheby's, New York, 14th May 1998, lot 351B

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Stockholm, Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet, Picasso, 1969, no. 12


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1962 et 1963, Paris, 1971, vol. 23, no. 114, illustrated pl. 64

Catalogue Note

In the last months of 1962 and into the beginning of 1963 Picasso executed a number of striking portraits of his wife Jacqueline, in which he bestowed her with a double, almost Janusian, profile. This rendering of multiple perspectives in a single composition can be traced back to the Cubist period, when Picasso first developed his fascination with condensing varying viewpoints of an object or figure. Although an actual likeness has been partially abstracted by the bifurcation of the sitter’s face, the dark and dramatically arched eyebrows and the beautifully curved eyelids are unmistakably those of Jacqueline. Jacqueline was Picasso's devoted second wife who remained with him until the end of his life, and the artists’ renderings of her in a variety of guises 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 and willingness to sacrifice herself on the altar of his ego 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). Much like Marie-Thérèse had been in the 1930s, Jacqueline was a soothing companion for the firebrand artist, and his grandest depictions of her evoke the quiet yet extraordinarily powerful influence she held over his entire production during these last years of his life. In his monograph on the artist, Duncan claimed that ‘Jacqueline told me she had not once posed for Picasso. Her silence filled their home - and her face his eyes’ (ibid., p. 27). Despite not playing an active role the creation of individual paintings, Jacqueline was at the very centre of Picasso’s existence, artistic and domestic, throughout the final decades of the artist’s life, to quote Hélène Parmelin: ‘All of Notre Dame de Vie is made up of Jacqueline, rests upon Jacqueline, signifies Jacqueline. And all of the paintings are of Jacqueline... Jacqueline has the gift of becoming painting to an unimaginable degree. She has within her that wonderful power on which the painter feeds. She flows. She is made for it and gives of herself and devotes herself and dies in harness though living all the while and never posing. She harbors that multiplicity of herself. She peoples Notre Dame de Vie with her hundred thousand possibilities. She unfurls ad infinitum. She invades everything. She becomes all characters. She takes the place of all models of all the artists on all the canvases. All the portraits resemble her, even though they may not resemble each other. All the heads are hers and there are a thousand different ones’ (H. Parmelin, Picasso: Intimate Secrets of a Studio at Notre Dame de Vie, New York, 1966, pp. 14-15).

One of the central concerns in Picasso’s paintings and sculptures of the early 1960s is the relationship between light and shadow, negative and positive space and severe tonal contrasts used to create dramatic and engaging imagery – even to the extent of executing paintings in monochrome, and often imbuing his compositions with a nocturnal air akin to that of his earliest works from the 'Blue' period (fig. 3). In his discussion of Picasso's late works, David Sylvester links them to his early masterpiece, Demoiselles d'Avignon, both distinguished by the 'raw vitality' which they have as their central underlying theme: ‘The resemblance of figures in the Demoiselles and in late Picasso to masked tribal dancers is as crucial as their scale in giving them a threatening force. It is irrelevant whether or not particular faces or bodies are based on particular tribal models: what matters is the air these personages have of coming from a world more primitive, possibly more cannibalistic and certainly more elemental than ours. Despite the rich assortment of allusions to paintings in the Renaissance tradition, the treatment of space rejects that tradition in favour of an earlier one, the flat unperspectival space of, say, medieval Catalan frescoes... At twenty five, Picasso's raw vitality was already being enriched by the beginnings of an encyclopaedic awareness of art; at ninety, his encyclopaedic awareness of art was still being enlivened by a raw vitality’ (D. Sylvester, in Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 144).