Dormeur stamped 'Picasso', numbered '3/20' and stamped with François Hugo's silversmith mark (on the reverse), silver repoussé 42.2cm (16 5/8in) diameter with wooden presentation box
Conceived in 1956 and executed in silver by Pierre Hugo in May 1977 in an edition of 20 plus two artist's proofs.
LITERATURE: Douglas Cooper, Picasso, 19 Plats en Argent par François & Pierre Hugo, Paris, 1977, n.p. (another plate illustrated)
Alain Ramié, Picasso, Catalogue of the Edited Ceramic Works, 1947-1971, Madoura, 1988, p. 176, no. 343 (white earthenware clay version illustrated).
To be included in Dr. Clare Finn's forthcoming catalogue raisonné (no. 1).
From 1956 to 1961 François Victor-Hugo, Victor Hugo's great-grandson, worked with Picasso in a little known collaboration that resulted in the creation of a number of silver platters, based on Picasso's ceramic empreinte originale plates, as well as other silver dishes that have no equivalents in Picasso's ceramic work. All the pieces resulting from this collaboration today still remain in the possession of the Picasso Family.
But from November 1973 onwards, the Atelier Hugo, by that point including not only François, but his wife Monique and their son Pierre, began to make a limited edition of platters that had featured in the collaboration. Examples of these editioned pieces were exhibited in London, at the Lever Gallery in 1977 under the auspices of Douglas Cooper.
Although Cooper was instrumental in reintroducing Picasso to François, who had known the wider Hugo family, specifically François' half brother Jean since 1917, when he had worked on the ballet Parade for Diaghilev, when the work with François got underway in 1957 Picasso was quick to dispense with Cooper as an intermediary, keeping him out of the collaboration process. Although he did still use him when he felt Hugo had gone a little silent!
Picasso's close involvement in all the decisions relating to the collaborative process can be traced not only through the choice of designs he asked Hugo to make for him, but in the method in which they were made, hand stamped into moulds in a variation on the repoussé technique, one that in turn further links them to their ceramic equivalents that were mould pressed, but in the choice of material, silver, in which they were made. Early on Hugo had suggested an alloy that looked like silver but which Picasso rejected.
The platter Le dormeur, an example of which we see here, was the first design Picasso chose for this venture in silver. It shows the artist working with the sculptural qualities of a two-dimensional medium. Picasso has used the shallow curve of the platter's bowl to evoke the sculptural volume of an entire head. The Joueur de flute et cavalier's distant riders also shows this use of a smaller volume to evoke something much greater. As its tiny figures ride in an arc across the platter's shallow bowl they bring a much greater panorama to mind, a quality subtly enhanced by Picasso's choice of finish for his silver pieces with their sateen backgrounds and bright polished lines.
We are grateful to Dr. Clare Finn, author of The Decorative Metalwork of Pablo Picasso; his collaboration with François Hugo, PhD Thesis, The Royal College of Art, London, 2004, for this catalogue note.