Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Paul Eluard, À Pablo Picasso, Geneva & Paris, 1944, illustration of another impression pl. 102
Wilhelm Boeck & Jaime Sabartés, Picasso, London, 1952, illustration of another impression p. 401
André Fermigier, Picasso, 1969, no. 161, illustration of another impression p. 243
Georges Bloch, Pablo Picasso, catalogue de l’œuvre gravé et lithographié, 1904-1967, Bern, 1971, vol I, no. 288, illustration of another impression pp. 286 & 287
Francis Ponge, Pierre Descargues & Edward Quinn, Picasso, Paris, 1974, illustration of another impression p. 212
Timothy Hilton, Picasso, London, 1975, no. 166, illustration of another impression p. 225
Brigitte Baer & Bernhard Geiser, Picasso peintre-graveur, Bern 1986, vol. III, no. 573.7, illustration of another impression p. 24
Sebastian Goeppert & Herma C. Goeppert-Frank, Minotauromachy by Pablo Picasso, Geneva, 1987, illustration of another impression
Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot & Marie-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, no. 711, illustration of another impression p. 292
Kathleen Brunner, Picasso Rewriting Picasso, London, 2004, illustration of another impression in colour pp. 8 & 20-21
Picasso. Toros (exhibition catalogue), Museo Picasso, Malaga, 2005, illustration of another impression p. 84
Stephen Coppel, Picasso Prints – The Vollard Suite, London, 2012, illustration of another impression in colour p. 37
La Minotauromachie was executed at a time of significant turmoil in Picasso’s personal life. His floundering marriage to Olga Khokhlova was about to come to a crisis point with Olga’s discovery that his young lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, was pregnant. It was in the period leading up to this revelation that Picasso produced La Minotauromachie, a period which he would later describe as ‘la pire époque de ma vie’ (the worst period of my life). Between the winter of 1934 until the summer of 1935 Picasso virtually ceased painting. However, printmaking appears to have provided Picasso with a much needed physical involvement with his creative endeavor.
The deeply private mythology of La Minotauromachie revolves around the bullfight (the tauromachy) and the Minotaur. It is the pinnacle of a visual language Picasso developed over the course of his relationship with Marie-Thérèse, and whose growth is materially documented most clearly in the Suite Vollard. Generally recognised as a representation of the artist himself, the Minotaur was a character that fascinated Picasso and it was appropriated by him in a number of different guises: sometimes lustful and sexually predatory, at other times merry and sociable, or introverted and vulnerable. Here the beast appears tamed and subdued, shielding his sight from the scene illuminated by the young girl with the candle. Similarly, the image of Marie-Thérèse appears repeatedly throughout the Suite Vollard and appears here in the form of the swooning torera. These central figures resonate closely with a painting dated 19th September 1933 (fig. 1); in which the bull has inflicted the fatal wound to the dying horse (whose form reappears in the etching almost exactly), and the torero has been tossed from his mount by the bull’s powerful head onto its own back. In the etching, the male bullfighter has become Marie-Thérèse, whose pale torso at the centre of the image shows rounded breasts and stomach – which is sometimes interpreted as an indication of her pregnancy. Overall, the scene is a dichotomy of light and dark, confined interior and open sea and sky, brute strength and girlish innocence, passive observation and the violence of the bullfight. The etched lines are expertly layered to emphasize these contrasts, such that the apocryphal story being told becomes secondary to Picasso’s mastery of his medium.
La Minotauromachie served as a visual source for Picasso’s greatest work of art: Guernica which he painted two years later in response to the Spanish Civil War and which re-uses many of the motifs seen in this print (fig. 2), such as the Minotaur, the terrified horse and the beacon held by Marie-Thérèse.
Picasso worked intensely on the plate for La Minotauromachie over a number of weeks, producing a total of seven states of which the present work is the seventh and final state. The artist was reluctant to release any impressions except to his closest friends, and even pretended to his most trusted dealers that he had not completed work on the plate. At his death, either 23 or 27 impressions remained in the artist’s estate, of which the present print is one. Picasso’s reluctance to formally edition La Minotauromachie is perhaps indicative of the emotional investment the artist had put into the work and the deep personal significance with which he regarded it.
Baer cites approximately 55 impressions of La Minotauromachie in its final state. At least half are held in museums including the Musée Picasso, Paris; The Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo; The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Fig. 1, Pablo Picasso¸ Courses de Taureaux, 1933, oil on panel, Musée National Picasso, Paris
Fig. 2, Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937, oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid