International auction house Sotheby’s live-streamed three evening sales in Hong Kong on April 19. Rare Whisky & Moutai Live (Including The Black Bowmore “Archive Cabinet); Beyond Legends and Modern Art and ICONS: Masterpieces from across time and space. The sale that got the most attention was ICONS, which had Pablo Picasso’s oil on canvas Buste de matador. It fetched a whopping $18 million in the sale.
Picasso was eight when he first saw a bullfight, which is a matter of pride for the Spaniards. Since then, the bullfight arena, and all its aspects had fascinated him. In the course of his life, he painted several pieces around this sport.
Between 1889 to 1890, he painted the Le petit picador jaune (bullfighter on horseback in an arena, depicted from a spectator’s perspective); from 1900 to 1901, he created a series of oil and pastel works portraying various bullfighting scenes (these were the first set of works that he sold); and in 1937, he painted Guernica (an unyielding bull turning its head. A painting to denounce fascist atrocities).
The Buste de matador was created in 1970 when Picasso was 89 and was the first painting in this matador series. Sotheby’s website says, “The figure in the painting has a piercing expression, full of tenderness and concern. We can infer that Picasso was paying tribute to his wife with this matador, expressing his undying affection. The bullfighter depicted could be modelled on a matador from Mozambique that Picasso saw in 1970.”
The long orange tresses and the brilliant hues of blue look stunning.