Christie’s global ONE auction scheduled for July 10th has Picasso’s Baigneuses, sirènes, femme nue et minotaur completed in 1937—an autobiographical scene for the artist—which will go up for sale with an estimate of $6 million to $9 million in the New York session of the sale.
Acquired directly from Picasso’s estate before being held privately in the same family collection for more than eighty years, this is the first time the work will come to the market. The small-scale work—8 7/8 inches by 10 ½ inches— is an ink on board featuring a minotaur, a mythological beast with the head of a bull and the body of a man that Picasso often used as an avatar for himself, carrying a woman (presumed to be the artists’s mistress, Marie-Thérèse) amid a scene of encroaching sirens.
“Multiple meanings can be drawn from this powerful yet exquisite work in which Picasso depicts his magnificent mythological alter ego the Minotaur carrying and surrounded by his lovers” said Olivier Camu, Christie’s Deputy Chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art said in a statement. “Women were very important to Picasso” Camu added, who noted each new mistress in Picasso’s life became important subjects throughout his oeuvre.
References found in the work on offer are comparable to the artist’s 1937 oil and chalk on canvas work, On the Beach (La baignade), which resides in the Peggy Guggenheim collection.
The autobiographical hybrid minotaur according to the work’s catalogue essay serves as “Picasso’s projection of an inner self,” one that is “welling up from a primal, subconscious.” In the 1920s to 1930s, Picasso, along with his surrealist counterparts used classical themes such as metamorphosis as inspiration in their works. In Picasso’s painting on offer at Christie’s, the image of the classical mythic figure, the Minotaur-Theseus hybrid embodies a status between the human and the animal. The artist’s long-time mistress, Marie-Thérèse, whose face is recognizably apparent in other works appears as the semi-conscious figure the Picasso-Minotaur is holding.
Elsewhere in the work, the face of Dora Maar, Picasso’s famous muse, a photographer who ran in Surrealist circles with whom he began a relationship in 1936 appears as a winged siren. The pictures reveals what Camu views as Picasso’s simultaneous sense of “guilt perhaps —as some critics noted— but certainly desire,” referring to the artist’s conflicted stance between his two main muses. Rendering himself as the painting’s hero, the story behind the work also brings to global audiences a reminder of Picasso’s historical cruelty towards the women central in his life.
In the current market, the work’s provenance and narrative power outweigh its small size to account for the estimate. “The execution is flawless and a unique mix of ink, gouache and Ripolin‘ said Camu, who added that the work’s rendering of the sailing boat, which in its visibility of varying perspectives reveals the artist’s “wink back to Cubism.”