A masterpiece by Pablo Picasso depicting his ‘Golden Muse’ Marie-Thérèse Walter could fetch $50 million when it hits the auction block at Sotheby’s next month.
‘Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée’ was painted in 1937, a seminal year in Picasso’s career during which he painted his masterwork Guernica.
Having finished the portrait, Picasso left it unvarnished and it remained in his personal art collection for almost 40 years, until his death in 1973.
It then passed into a private collection where it has spent the past 45 hidden away, rarely loaned out for exhibition or seen in public.
It will now be offered publically for sale for the very first time, as the star lot of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in London on February 28.
"One of the greatest portraits by Picasso to appear on the market in recent years, this depiction of Marie-Thérèse from the 1930s – painted in the same year as Guernica and the Weeping Women – reveals Picasso’s mastery of the modern portrait," said Thomas Bompard, Head of Sotheby’s London Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sales.
"Of all of the artist’s styles and decades, this is the one that most epitomises the legacy of Picasso as a portraitist of women – with this particular painting encompassing all of the key elements for which he is recognised and celebrated. It undoubtedly represents what is most desirable for a connoisseur and collector of modern art."
Picasso first met Marie-Thérèse Walter in 1927, and for the next ten years she served as his mistress and model. She inspired some of his greatest works during the period, and in 1935 their daughter Maya was born.
However, by the time he painted ‘Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée’ in 1937 he had already begun a tempestuous new affair with the photographer Dora Maar.
He cruelly encouraged the two women to fight it out between themselves for his affections, and during the single occasion they met at his studio they took this literally.
The pair allegedly wrestled each other to the ground, and Picasso later described the fight as "one of his choicest memories".
The portrait is one of the last Picasso ever painted of his ‘Golden Muse’, and undoubtedly also one of the finest.
"With such a strong appetite for Picasso’s work from across the globe, this defining portrait from a pivotal year in the oeuvre of the most globally recognised artist is the perfect piece to headline our first major season of 2018," added Helena Newman, Global Co-Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department.
"It is all the more remarkable to be able to offer a painting of this calibre that has never been seen on the market before."