A unique ring given by Pablo Picasso to his lover Dora Maar will be offered at Sotheby’s this month, as part of an auction featuring small-yet-remarkable artworks.
The ring, which features Picasso’s tiny hand-drawn portrait of his muse, is expected to sell for up to £500,000 ($635,000).
The artist gave the ring to Maar, a photographer, painter and poet, following an argument during which she hurled her ruby ring into the River Seine.
Maar was the subject of several important Picasso portraits painted during the 1930s and 40s, and the pair shared a tempestuous relationship until he left her for a younger woman in 1946.
Maar suffered a breakdown and lived the rest of her life in seclusion, finally finding peace through painting and her Catholic faith. When she passed away in 1997, the ring Picasso had given her was still amongst her personal possessions.
"Picasso has depicted a world on a scale so intimate you can hold an entire artistic vision on your finger," said Thomas Bompard, Head of Sotheby’s London Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sales and Curator of Actual Size auction.
"Sometimes the smallest of things can contain a universe of thought and emotion, and so it is with this ring – an intimate piece that allows us a captivating glimpse into secrets that might otherwise not be shared.
"Picasso conceived this ring just as he was working on his large-scale masterpiece Guernica: one of his greatest art historical achievements coinciding with an extraordinary emotional masterpiece in miniature."
The ‘Actual Size’ sale in London on June 21 features works by some of history’s most renowned artists, none of which measure larger than 11.6" by 8.9" – the size of a page in the auction catalogue.
"Sometimes in life, things are perceived to be limited by their size," said Bompard. "We’ve all heard ‘It is sublime….but it’s small!’ or ‘He’s great, but so short’."
"However, with the sheer quality of every lot in Actual Size, we expect to hear the cry: ‘It’s even more brilliant because it’s small!’
"There’s an earth-shattering intensity to so many of these works – something which speaks to the discreet sophistication of so many collectors."