Picasso Marie-Thérèse Portrait at Sotheby's in May

A $60m Surrealist image of Picasso's mistress will follow last year's $103m success


In recent years, value in the Picasso market has migrated toward a distinct period in the master’s production surrounding his affair with Marie-Thérèse Walter, the young woman who became his obsession for the better part of a decade. Following Sotheby’s success with a portrait of Walter from 1932—a work that made $103 million in May of 2021—the auction house is offering on May 17th Femme nue couchée painted in April 1932. Appearing at auction for the first time, the large-scale painting has a whisper number of $60 million.

Here's Sotheby's description of the painting's creation:

In early 1932 Picasso was planning a major retrospective scheduled for June, and in preparation for the exhibition began his first dedicated series of paintings depicting his muse and mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter in the seclusion of his new country home of Boisgeloup. In Femme nue couchée, which was completed during this period, Picasso charted new territory with his portrait of Marie-Thérèse, not only in his own body of work, but in the history of the nude figure with his depiction of her reclining in a highly abstracted space, highlighting her biomorphic figure with touches of fertility, sexuality, and grace.

Picasso first met Marie-Thérèse in Paris in 1927 when she was seventeen years old. The couple’s relationship was kept a well-guarded secret for many years, both on account of the fact that Picasso was then still married to Olga Khokhlova, a Russian-Ukrainian dancer he had met on tour with Diaghilev, and because of Marie-Thérèse’s age. It was during these preceding months that he first cast his artistic spotlight on the voluptuous blonde. Until then, Picasso had only referenced his extramarital affair with Marie-Thérèse in code, sometimes embedding her symbolically in a composition or rendering her unmistakable profile as a feature of the background. But by the end of 1931, Picasso could no longer repress the creative impulse that his lover inspired, and over Christmas 1931 and into early 1932, Marie- Thérèse emerged, for the first time, in fully recognizable, languorous, form in his work.

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