S otheby’s is pleased to present Picasso Prints & Ceramics. This dedicated sale of Picasso’s editioned works includes over 50 lots of the artist’s prints and ceramics spanning the artist’s career and a variety of his most famous motifs.
With estimates ranging from $1,000 to over $30,000, this sale presents a diverse selection of works by Picasso suitable to new and experienced collectors alike.
Pablo loved to surround himself with birds and other animals. Generally speaking, they were exempt from the mistrust that he had for his human friends.
O wls feature broadly in Picasso’s work, and he drew inspiration from an array of sources, being well aware of the symbolic associations of owls throughout the history of art. The owl was the ancient Greek symbol for Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who disguised herself as a bird to help defeat the Persians at the battle Marathon. Owls were symbols of intelligence and courage, and were used on Athenian coins and to decorate pottery. The owl was also the ancient symbol of Antibes, the region neighboring Vallauris, and where Picasso was working on a series of paintings in the fall of 1946. It was during this time, while working at the Chateau d’Antibes, that Picasso encountered an injured owl. According to Françoise Gilot,
"…one of his claws had been injured. We bandaged it and it gradually healed. We bought a cage for him, and when we returned to Paris, we brought him back with us… Every time the owl snorted at Picasso, he would shout, Cochon, Merde, and a few other obscenities, just to show that he was even worse mannered than him, but Picasso’s fingers, though small, were tough and the owl didn’t hurt him. Finally the owl would let him scratch his head and gradually came to perch on his finger instead of biting it, but even so, he still looked very unhappy.” (Françoise Gilot, My Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, pp. 144-45).
Owls first appeared in Picasso’s editioned ceramics in 1949 with Petite chouette (A.R. 82), and it is in this work that Picasso reveals this more playful side of his owl. Picasso explored the owl motif in his ceramic work with vases, pitchers, plates and platters, often repeating certain forms and experimenting with different decorative effects. Between 1949 and 1968, Picasso created 37 different editioned ceramics.
I n addition to the owl, several other birds and his dog Lump, Picasso had a goat named Esmerelda, who served as the model for his famous sculpture at MoMA. The goat, like the owl, has classical sources. The goat depicted in Tete de chevre de profil (lot 70) playfully looks out with large, bright eyes and a hint of a smile, heightened by the vibrant polychromatic coulor palette. While the portrayal of the subject in profile harkens back to ancient decorative motifs, Picasso has updated the classical subject matter, infusing the plate with levity and liveliness.
W hile working at the Chateau d’Antibes, Picasso said, “It’s strange - in Paris, I never draw fauns, centaurs or heroes from mythology, it’s as if they live only here.” In his ceramic work, he depicted fauns, centaurs and scenes rich with mythological iconography. Picasso was inspired by the bright colors and rich history of the Mediterranean region.