Titled “Tête de femme endormie”, this Picasso masterpiece will be offered during Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, which will be held on June 29 immediately after the house’s marquee Contemporary Art Evening Auction. It is expected to sell for between $9 million and $12 million.
“Tête de femme endormie” belongs to a series of paintings and sculptures that explored Picasso’s muse and mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter in different poses, either fully recumbent or seated. The Spanish artist completed this colourful portrait at the height of the Surrealist movement in July 1934, when he reached an extraordinary pitch of creativity and produced one masterpiece after another.
Distinguished by their rich coloration and sweeping arabesques, Picasso’s paintings of Marie-Thérèse Walter have been acclaimed as the most erotic and emotionally uplifting compositions of his decades-long career. “None of Picasso’s earlier relationships had provoked such sustained lyric power, such a sense of psychological awareness and erotic completeness,” American art scholar William Rubin once said of Marie-Thérèse’s influence on Picasso’s oeuvre.
“Tête de femme endormie” is now hitting the auction block at Sotheby’s for the first time since late American collectors and philanthropists, Carmen and David Lloyd Kreeger, acquired it in 1962.
Appearing on the market for the first time in six decades, the masterwork is expected to sell for between $9 million and $12 million. These conservative estimates are far from the record prices achieved by Picasso’s portraits of his “golden muse” Marie-Thérèse Walter in recent years.
“Femme au Béret et à la Robe Quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter)” surpassed its pre-sale estimate of £35 million, and fetched an unexpected £49.8 million during Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in February 2018. Picasso is currently living up to his reputation as the most bankable of modern artists, as the results of the ten-day online sale dedicated to the Spanish master at Sotheby’s London testify.
The online auction, dubbed “The World of Picasso,” brought in almost £5 million, with 83% of the works on offer selling for prices above their high estimates. Among them were a 1950 vase, entitled “Grand Vase aux Femmes Nues,” which sold for £435,000; as well as a paint palette used by Picasso in the early 1960s, which surpassed its high pre-sale estimate of £6,000 and fetched £56,250.