Lot 23
  • 23

PABLO PICASSO | Buste d'homme

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
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  • Pablo Picasso
  • Buste d'homme
  • signed Picasso and dated 28.1.69. II (upper left)
  • oil on corrugated card laid down on panel
  • 95 by 63.5cm.
  • 37 3/8 by 25in.
  • Painted on 28th January 1969.


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris Private Collection, France

Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above in May 1986)

Private Collection, Japan (acquired from the above in August 1986)

Sold: Christie's, London, 25th June 2003, lot 205

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Galerie Schmit, Portraits français XIXe-XXe siècles, 1974, no. 44, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Personnage espagnol)


Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1969, Paris, 1976, vol. 31, no. 39, illustrated pl. 13

Catalogue Note

Between January and March 1969 Picasso painted a series of highly stylised oil portraits on corrugated cardboard, including the present Buste d’homme. The man depicted embodies two of the key themes of the artist’s late work; the curling, black hair and jauntily angled hat are elements usually associated with the musketeer, while the vivid yellows and reds of his ornamented epaulettes are surely a reference to the figure of the matador. Towards the end of his life, the image of the musketeer evoked a certain nostalgia for the youthful vigour of his early years; the musketeers of Dumas’ legend being renowned just as much for their good living and loving as for their swordsmanship. In the present work Picasso conflates that with another symbol of virility and strength. The origins of the matador within his work go right back to his youth and the years he spent in Madrid at the turn of the century when he regularly visited the Prado and would have seen Goya’s own bullfighting scenes. The matador and the corrida became emblematic of Picasso’s Spanish identity, with the red and yellow colours of Spain often used to reinforce this connection. Examining the persistence of this theme across different periods of the artist’s career, John Richardson spoke of ‘periods of deep personal identification with both the bull-fighter and the bull, not to speak of that vulnerable monster, the minotaur’, and went on to quote Hélène Parmelin: ‘The bulls are in his very soul’ (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, New York, 1991, vol. I, p. 29). In the present work the duality of the figure only serves to reinforce the vital energy that runs through the works of this period.

Two exhibitions held in 2009 – Picasso: Challenging the Past at the National Gallery in London and Picasso: Mosqueteros at the Gagosian Gallery in New York – represented important steps in reassessing Picasso’s late œuvre. The works of the last twenty years of Picasso’s life, including his images of musketeers and his variations on the theme of old master paintings, are increasingly seen as a fitting culmination to the career of the greatest artist of the twentieth century. His late heads and busts represent a psychological projection of a complex and multifaceted identity, an amalgamation of influences and personas that made up his iconography. As Simonetta Fraquelli wrote: ‘the extensive re-evaluation of his late work since his death has highlighted its undiminished power and originality. His capacity for emotional depth and painterly freedom in his late painting, together with his wide ranging engagement with the imagery of the great paintings of the past, was to have a lasting influence on the development of neoexpressionist art from the early 1980s onwards’ (S. Fraquelli, ‘Looking at the Past to Defy the Present: Picasso’s Painting 1946-1973’ in Picasso: Challenging the Past (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery, London, 2009, p. 146).