An Enigmatic Still-Life Picasso, Made During His Now-Celebrated ‘Wonder Year’ of 1932, Will Hit the Auction Block This Fall

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A Pablo Picasso still-life that is said to also reference his one-time muse Marie-Thérèse Walter that has been off the market for more than two decades will hit the auction block this fall, with a presale estimate nearly three times the previous publicly known sale price.

Painted in 1932, will be featured at Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction in New York in November, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death. The storied canvas work has a fees-free presale estimate in the region of $25 million, a high increment when compared with its last price tag in 2000, when the work sold for $9.9 million, including fees, at a Sotheby’s New York sale. Sotheby’s said the painting is among Picasso’s most valuable still-life works offered at auction.

The painting, which has been kept in the same private collection since 2004, will be unveiled at Sotheby’s galleries in Hong Kong on October 2 as the house kicks off its autumn marquee sale series. It is the painting’s public view debut in Asia and also its first exhibition appearance anywhere in 30 years. Sotheby’s did not disclose who the consignor is and where the private collection is based.

Another 1932 Picasso painting, from the coveted collection of Emily Fisher Landau, will also be on the offer at the very same Sotheby’s sale. The star lot has a presale estimate in excess of $120 million.

Picasso

Pablo Picasso, (1932). Courtesy Sotheby’s

The year 1932 was “one of the most pivotal years” of Picasso’s life, artistically and personally, according to Julian Dawes, Sotheby’s head of Impressionist and modern art in New York. Indeed, the artist’s “ (wonder year) was so significant that Tate Modern in London held an exhibition in 2018 titled “Picasso 1932” to detail that part of history through more than 100 paintings, sculptures, and drawings.

Indeed, it was known as one of his most creative years. Many titles that have since commended high prices at auctions, such as from the collection of Los Angeles patrons Sydney and Frances Brody (sold for $106 million in 2010), and (sold for $103 million in 2021), the third and fifth priciest Picasso works sold at auction respectively according to Artnet Price Database, were painted in 1932.

On a personal level, it was also the year when Picasso’s secret affair with the young Walter came to light. Picasso met Walter in 1927 when she was just 17 years old, while he was still married to Olga Khokhlova. By 1932, his marriage with Khokhlova already turned sour.

was completed the day before Valentine’s Day and, according to the auction house, it is also said to feature Walter, though in an abstracted and symbolic sense. Sotheby’s claimed that Walter’s presence is “unmistakable, expressed through the flowing lines of the green drapery mirroring her form, the predominant use of a color palette featuring yellow and lavender, and the alluring shape of the guitar on the right.” Artnet News reached out to a few art advisors familiar with Picasso’s work for comment, but did not hear back by publishing time.

The work also made reference to a work by Henri Matisse, the house said.

Whether Walter can be truly discerned or not, the work was indeed present among other paintings of the young muse. It made its exhibition debut as the artist handpicked for his first major retrospective at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris in June 1932. It was considered a rare occasion for a living artist to have a retrospective at the time and the show brought fame and recognition to Picasso, and drew people’s attention to the new woman in his life—there were frequent appearances of paintings of Walter in the exhibition.

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