Picasso Ceramics from the Estate of Wagner Thielens

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Over the course of two decades, Pablo Picasso created over 3,500 unique and editioned ceramic works fired in clay. Picasso’s ceramic works were rarely studied or appreciated during his lifetime. However, in recent years his ceramics have enjoyed broader recognition for their inventiveness and originality, showcased in museum exhibitions, sold at auction and collected with fervent enthusiasm. The first session of Sotheby’s Prints & Multiples sale is dedicated entirely to Picasso’s editioned ceramics, the vast majority of which coming from the Estate of Wagner Thielens (lots 1–51). The breadth of form and imagery represented in Mr. Thielens’s collection provides an ample lens with which to further delve into Picasso’s work, notably his use of animal, classical and female imagery and the way in which he looked to the past for inspiration while creating something unmistakably modern. Click ahead for highlights from this important collection.  

Prints & Multiples
27–28 April | New York 

Picasso Ceramics from the Estate of Wagner Thielens

  • Sujet Poisson (A.R. 139), Terre de faïence pitcher in colours, 1952, from the edition of 500. Estimate $3,000–5,000.
    Picasso designed many plates, vases and pitchers featuring fish, which were commonly used in ancient pottery. Sujet poisson epitomises the whimsy with which Picasso approached much of his ceramic output. Here, Picasso has transformed a pitcher into a fish, one of the spouts becoming his tail. The fish’s huge grin and cartoonish eyes seem almost Seussian.  

  • Tête de chèvre de profil (A.R. 154), Terre de faïence plate partially glazed in colours, 1952, numbered 62/100. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    In 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 held at MoMA. The goat, like the owl and the fish, has classical sources. The goat depicted in Tête de chèvre de profil playfully looks out with large, bright eyes and a hint of a smile, heightened by the vibrant polychromatic colour 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. 

  • Corrida (A.R. 181), Terre de faïence plate partially glazed, 1953, from the edition of 200. Estimate $5,000–7,000.
    The bull is one of Picasso’s most prolific subjects. This lot presents a confrontation between a picador with his lance and the bull, a scene with erotic connotations that was well known and oft explored by Picasso. Also of note is Picasso’s experimentation with the bull’s form that decorates the border. He moves from a mere outline to fully formed beasts scene in different states of repose, something that contrasts vividly with the subject of the main scene. 

  • Faune cavalier (A.R. 337), Terre de faïence plate partially glazed in colours, 1956, numbered 61/100. Estimate $7,000–10,000.
    While 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 colours and rich history of the Mediterranean region.  

  • Jacqueline au chevalet (A.R. 333), Terre de faïence plate partially glazed in colours, 1956, numbered 113/200. Estimate $25,000–35,000.
    It was at Madoura that Picasso met his last wife Jacqueline Roque, where she worked. Picasso was married to Jacqueline from 1961 until his death, and she became the chief muse of his later years. 

  • Vallauris (A.R. 330), Terre de faïence plate, 1956, numbered 75/100. Estimate $7,000–10,000.
    During this period, Picasso made original posters for Vallauris and the annual pottery exhibition. The exact imagery of this double profile plate was used in a linoleum cut poster designed by Picasso and printed by Hidalgo Arnéra. It was Arnéra who urged Picasso to take up the linoleum cut in 1954. 

  • i>Visage no. 197 (A.R. 494), Terre de faïence plate glazed in colours, 1963, numbered 31/500. Estimate $5,000–7,000.
    Picasso’s playfulness and creativeness is apparent in a series of round plates he designed in 1963, working from the same basic model, each with a diameter of approximately 255 mm. With these plates, Picasso experimented with a diverse use of colour and glaze. Some of these plates employ stylised decorations of lines and shapes, while others are transformed into abstracted faces with varying expressions.   

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