PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973) Tête de picador au nez cassé 18.5cm (7 5/16in) high. (Conceived in Barcelona in 1903, this bronze version cast in 1960 by the Valsuani Foundry in an edition of 8 numbered 00 to 6/6 plus one unnumbered cast.)

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Lot 2AR
Tête de picador au nez cassé

Sold for £ 200,062 (US$ 259,437) inc. premium
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Tête de picador au nez cassé
stamped with the foundry mark 'C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE' and numbered '3/6' (verso)
bronze with dark brown patina
18.5cm (7 5/16in) high.
Conceived in Barcelona in 1903, this bronze version cast in 1960 by the Valsuani Foundry in an edition of 8 numbered 00 to 6/6 plus one unnumbered cast.


  • The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Monsieur Claude Picasso.

    Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.
    Marlborough Gallery, New York.
    Caral Gimbel Lebworth Collection (acquired from the above); her sale, Christie's, New York, 7 May 2009, lot 313.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

    R. Penrose, The Sculpture of Picasso, exh. cat., New York, 1967 (another cast illustrated p. 51).
    W. Spies, Picasso Sculpture, London, 1972 (another cast illustrated p. 30).
    A. E. Elsen, Origins of Modern Sculpture: Pioneers and Premises, London, 1974 (another cast illustrated).
    R. Johnson, The Early Sculpture of Picasso 1901 - 1914, New York & London, 1976 (another cast illustrated pp. 191-192).
    W. Spies, Picasso, das plastische Werk, Stuttgart, 1983 (another cast illustrated pp. 19 & 326).
    J. Pilau i Fabre, Picasso, Life and Work of the Early Years, 1881 - 1907, Oxford, 1985 (another cast illustrated p. 361).
    W. Spies, Picasso, Sculpteur, exh. cat, Paris, 2000 (plaster version illustrated p. 25 & another cast illustrated p. 346).
    W. Spies, Picasso, The Sculptures, Stuttgart, 2000 (plaster version illustrated p. 25 & another cast illustrated p. 346).
    A. Temkin & A. Umland, Picasso, Sculpture, exh. cat., New York, 2015 (another cast illustrated p. 45).
    C. Bernardi, S. Molins & L. Le Bon, Picasso, bleu et rose, exh. cat., Vanves, 2018 (another cast illustrated p. 198).

    The present work Tête de picador au nez cassé secures an important place in Picasso's sculptural oeuvre, as it was created in the Blue Period. This period, between 1901 and 1904, was paramount within the artist's body of work as Picasso cultivated his personal artistic voice and left the academic tradition behind. Picasso began to capture human agony and the struggle of everyday life, often depicting crippled figures and turning towards the hopeless and outcasts as favoured subjects. Tête de picador au nez cassé is Picasso's first endeavour in translating these concepts into his sculptures. The facial characteristics of the bullfighter, an iconic subject Picasso would return to time and again, are distorted in the present work. The tip of the nose, clearly broken, directs towards the lower right, and the left side of the mouth curls downwards. The reflections caught on the brown patina on the uneven surface of the mask create contrasting light and shadow effects, where deep lines and rough facial expressions come to life.

    As the son of a painter, Picasso's desire to become an artist emerged from a young age. When he was only 16 years old, Picasso went to the Instituto da Guarda in La Corūna, followed by two other art academies in Barcelona and Madrid between 1894 and 1895. His education was mainly focused on drawing and painting, and followed the academic discipline. During this time, Picasso was very much isolated from the trends that were growing in Europe. It was not until a few years later in 1899, when he became acquainted with Spanish sculptors such as Francisco 'Paco' Durrio y Madrón, that he became aware of the tantalising developments beyond academy life. Durrio y Madrón was a disciple of Paul Gauguin, who introduced new forms, materials, techniques and context to sculpture. Alongside his appreciation of non-Western art, Gauguin's formal experiments in three dimensions would later have a profound influence on Picasso's work.

    In 1899, Picasso joined the anarchists from the Barcelonan Els Quatre Gats café, the equivalent of Le Chat Noir in Paris. The Symbolist artists and poets who gathered there closely followed the radical changes that were taking place in contemporary art. It was here that Picasso first truly encountered Modernism and was introduced to a new breed of 'painter-sculptor' artists. This pioneering group, who, alongside Gauguin included artists such as Edgar Degas and Honoré Daumier, had emerged in Paris during the late nineteenth century and worked in various disciplines. It encouraged the adventurous nineteen-year-old Picasso to explore the world outside Catalonia and he decided to visit Paris with his friend and fellow artist Carlos Casagemas in 1900.

    This year proved pivotal for the avant-garde, with the l'Exposition Universelle being held in the French capital. It formed the axis for contemporary art at the time and coincided with many other exhibitions such as a seminal survey of Auguste Rodin's sculpture. For the past decade, Rodin had dominated the art scene with his innovative representation of sculpture. He was one of the most celebrated living artists and his works were highly sought after by collectors. A pavilion at the Place de l'Alma was exclusively dedicated to Rodin, where 150 works were exhibited and a variety of lectures were given by notable French writers such as Charles Morice and Camille Mauclair. It was unquestionably one of the highlights of the l'Exposition Universelle and would not have been unnoticed by Picasso.

    Upon Picasso's return to Spain, Rodin's approach to sculpture was a much-discussed topic within the Barcelonan artistic circles. His work was published in several prominent magazines and newspapers, while the radicals of Els Quatre Gats advocated his work in an article dedicated to the artist in their journal Pèl & Ploma. Rodin's work was to become a great influence on Picasso during the early years of the 1900s.

    Picasso's Blue Period followed the tragic death of his comrade Casagemas, when the artist entered a period of depression. His works touched upon subjects such as poverty and melancholy and depicted frail, despondent figures in monochrome blue hues. Rodin's portrayals of unusual beauty and expressive realism became a great source of inspiration for Picasso. His work from 1903 shows many similarities to Rodin in both his paintings and sculpture, and critic Ron Johnson identifies a common 'feeling of utter collapse or sinking; diagonal movements compressed within the silhouette [... and] thematic similarities such as sadness, sorrow, meditation, and isolation' (R. Johnson, The Early Sculpture of Picasso 1901 – 1914, New York & London, 1976, p. 9). Such emotions are vividly expressed in Picasso's 1903 painting L'Ascète, in which the young Spanish artist seems to reference Rodin's seminal sculpture L'homme au nez cassé of 1863. Picasso translates the ridged, grooved face of Rodin's subject into a haunting canvas, whose pathos is heightened by the artist's emphasis on the deep lines of the man's face, his nose similarly distorted and pushed to one side, framed by the shadowy concaves of his cheeks.

    In Tête de picador au nez cassé Picasso directly references Rodin's masterpiece in sculptural form. Due to the extreme temperatures in Rodin's studio the back of the head of L'homme au nez cassé is said to have broken off, resulting in the appearance of a mask rather than a bust. Deliberately choosing the form of a mask in the present work, Picasso plays with the effects of light and dark across the bronze's uneven surface; the deep diagonal lines of the picador's face dramatize the subject's distorted physiognomy. By referring to such an influential work, Picasso deliberately embeds himself at a young age into the art historical discourse of the great masters of Modernism.

    Picasso kept his early sculptural work relatively private for a few decades. Consequently, these works were not included in Christian Zervos' catalogue raisonné. However, a study on paper of Tête de picador au nez cassé can be found in volume VI and is dated 1903. In 1905, the first bronze cast of Tête de picador au nez cassé was executed and sold to Gertrude Stein, a distinguished novelist, collector and figure within Parisian artistic circles. The sculpture remained within private collections for the first half of the twentieth century and it was not until the early 1960s that the work was first displayed publicly. In 1959 Picasso discovered the clay version of the model in his wardrobe during a move from his apartment on the rue des Grands-Augustin to the south of France. The following year his art dealer Daniel Kahnweiler commissioned an edition of just 8 bronzes, of which the present work is part. Otto Gerson exhibited the model Tête de picador au nez cassé for the first time in his respected gallery in New York City in 1962.

    Casts of Tête de picador au nez cassé have rarely been seen on the market. Only a few have remained in private collections, as the majority reside in important museum collections such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Baltimore Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Over the past decade, Picasso's early sculptural work has received significant institutional attention. For example, other bronze casts of Tête de picador au nez cassé were included in important surveys such as Picasso Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2015, and most recently, a cast of this work was included in the critically acclaimed exhibition Picasso, bleu et rose at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, in 2018 – 2019.
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