A Picasso Dora Maar painting from 1939, with a dramatic back story to its provenance, will be the highlight of Christie’s May Impressionist and Modern sale in New York:
On May 15, Christie’s will offer Femme assise, robe bleue by Pablo Picasso as a highlight of its Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale (Estimate: $35,000,000-50,000,000). Painted on 25 October 1939, Femme assise, robe bleue is a searing portrait of Picasso’s lover, Dora Maar. Painted on the artist’s birthday just after the beginning of the World War II, the work is filled with the unique character, distortions and tension that mark Picasso’s greatest portraits of Dora; at the same time, there is a tender sensuality present in the organic, curvaceous forms of the face which provides some insight into their relationship. This picture was formerly owned by G. David Thompson, to whom the great curator and art historian Alfred H. Barr, Jr. referred as, ‘one of the great collectors of the art of our time.’ (A.H. Barr, Jr., ‘Foreword’, auction catalogue, Parke-Bernet, New York, 1966, n.p.).
Francis Outred, Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, EMERI continued: “Femme assise, robe bleue is a timeless icon of artist and muse which speaks to collectors across the centuries and continents. Coming from a major European collection, the picture holds within it an incredible story. It originally belonged to Picasso’s dealer, Paul Rosenberg but was confiscated in 1940 soon after its creation. Later in the War it was intended to be transported to Germany but was famously intercepted and captured by members of the French Resistance, an event immortalised, albeit in fictional form, in the 1966 movie The Train, starring Burt Lancaster and Jeanne Moreau. In real life, one of the people who helped to sabotage the National Socialists’ attempt to remove countless artworks from France towards the end of the war was in fact Alexandre Rosenberg. The son of Paul Rosenberg, he had enlisted with the Free French Forces after the invasion of France in 1940. The painting was subsequently owned by the Pittsburgh steel magnate and legendary collector, George David Thompson, from whose collection many works now grace the walls of museums in the United States and Europe.”