The New York ‘Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale’ on May 13 made history. Pablo Picasso’s ‘Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)’ fetched a whopping $103.4 million!
This oil on canvas masterpiece was painted in 1932 and was sold after a 20-minute bidding battle. This portrait of Picasso’s lover Marie-Thérèse re-calibrates the list of the top five auction prices ever achieved for the modern artist. Among several of Picasso’s 1932 depictions of Marie-Thérèse, it ranks a close second to the top price of $106.5 million achieved at Christie’s in 2010 with ‘Nude, Green Leaves and Bust’.
Framed by a panel of sky blue, her head is luminous, sculptural and lunar giving an impression that it has been carved from marble. Her body looks soft and sensuous, a composite of curving planes orbiting around her fiery red torso.
In 2013, this painting was bought at a London sale by a European private collector for around $44.8 million, which is less than half the sale price it achieved on May 13.
“We saw strong results for the masterpiece market tonight. Picasso’s jewel-toned depiction of Marie-Thérèse Walter was the top lot of the evening, and first work (paintings by modern artists) since May 2019 to surpass the $100 million benchmark, signaling a continued appetite for modern masterpieces,” said Vanessa Fusco, Co-Head of the 20th Century Evening Sale.
In Picasso’s artistic career, the year 1932 is considered important because that’s when he made several paintings depicting Marie-Thérèse Walter, his clandestine and golden-haired muse. Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) was painted on October 30th, 1932, and is one of the final great masterpieces from this seminal year.
“Picasso has this incredible narrative, in terms of both the arc of his output and the figurative aspect of his zeitgeist. An aspect in this work that stands out is that Marie-Thérèse wasn’t asleep, she wasn’t passive, she had an agency, she was vigilant, she was present. She was standing in the chair with pride and defiance and erotic tension with the artist. There is sex but also love,” said Giovanna Bertazzoni, Vice Chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art.