Lot 19
  • 19

Pablo Picasso

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pablo Picasso
  • Nu couché
  • Signed Picasso and dated 20.4.72.II (upper right)
  • Pencil on paper
  • 22 by 29 1/2 in.
  • 55.8 by 74.9 cm


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris

Thomas Gibson Fine Art, London

Private Collection, London

Sale: Christie's, New York, November 12, 1997, lot 283

Private Collection, Europe (acquired in 1997)

Simon Capstick-Dale Fine Art, New York (acquired in 2004)

Private Collection, Florida (acquired from the above in 2011)


Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris, Picasso: 172 dessins en noir et en couleurs, 1972-73, no. 42, illustrated in the catalogue 


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1978, vol. XXXIII, no. 357, illustrated pl. 127

Catalogue Note

This extraordinary drawing is testament to Picasso’s natural flair as a draughtsman. Executed in 1972—when, in his early 90s, Picasso’s own physical stamina had inevitably waned—his focus on erotic subjects in his paintings and drawings only intensified. Rendered with a confident and free-flowing line, the image of the reclining nude in the present work is one of pure sensuality, and it takes the odalisque paintings of Ingres and Matisse as clear art historical references. The figure reclines languorously and its contortions call to mind some of Picasso's most sensual depictions of the voluptuous Marie-Thérèse from the 1930s while also evoking the drama of his masterpieces Guernica and La Femme qui pleure with the figure’s gnarled fingers and contorted head. It is Picasso's innate ability to combine his dream-like, voluptuous imagery with the energetic confrontation of his strong line which makes Nu couché a masterpiece of his later years.  "I have less and less time and I have more and more to say" Picasso commented 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 well as a conscious decision to allow himself total liberty with both style and subject matter. Rather than ponder the details of human anatomy and perspective, the artist isolated those elements of his subject that fascinated and preoccupied him most, and depicted them with his signature confidence and wit. 

"Art can only be erotic," Picasso famously remarked; Nu couché certainly embodies this belief. Themes of sex and passion appeared in many guises throughout Picasso's final years, such as the virile musketeers and pipe-smoking brigadiers entangled in romantic encounters with women, or the image of the painter and his model depicted in the studio. The relationship and synergy between the artist and model was one of profound complexity: "the more Picasso painted this theme, the more he pushed the artist-model relationship towards its ultimate conclusion: the artist embraces his model, cancelling out the barrier of the canvas and transforming the artist-model relationship into a man-woman relationship. Painting is an act of love, according to Gert Schiff, and John Richardson speaks of 'sex as metaphor for art, and art as a metaphor for sex'" (M.-L. Bernadac, 'Picasso 1953-1972: Painting as Model' in Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 77).