PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973) Chapeaux d'arlequin (recto); Arlequin (verso), circa 1918

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Lot 10AR
PABLO PICASSO
(1881-1973)
Chapeaux d'arlequin (recto); Arlequin (verso), circa 1918

Sold for £ 25,250 (US$ 34,722) inc. premium
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Chapeaux d'arlequin (recto); Arlequin (verso), circa 1918
signed Picasso (lower left)
black crayon on paper, double sided
19.9 x 10.5 cm.
7 13/16 x 4 1/8 in.

Footnotes

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

    Provenance
    Marcel Michaud Collection, Lyon (acquired from the artist in 1943)
    Françoise Dupuy-Michaud Collection, France (by descent from the above circa 1951)
    Anon. sale, London, Charity Auction, 30 November 2015
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    Pablo Picasso's Chapeaux d'arlequin (recto) and Arlequin (verso) is a testament to the artist's early 20th century innovations in illustration, painting, stage and set design. It showcases one of Picasso's most peripatetic periods, during which he collaborated with major composers, dancers, choreographers and artists that were together crystallising the tenets and aesthetics of Modernism – a movement with Picasso at its epicentre. Quite serendipitously, this whimsical, playful work was once owned by the famous dancer Françoise Dupuy, having been gifted to her by her father, the Avant-Garde art dealer and critic, Marcel Michaud.

    Guiding his black crayon across the paper with fluidity and flourish, Picasso renders a series of iterations of Harlequin, the stock character of 16th century Commedia dell'Arte theatre, performed throughout Europe by travelling comedy troupes. In this present work, the character is instantly recognisable from its typifying features; bicorne hats are perched at jaunty angles and ruffled collars protrude flamboyantly. A mischievous court servant, the Harlequin would perform dazzling stunts and tricks, often acting to thwart his master and gain the affections of his love interest, Columbine. Throughout the development of the Harlequinade pantomime genre in 18th century Britain, the character evolved into a prototype for the Romantic hero. The Harlequin was possibly included in Picasso's repertoire through Barcelona's annual street carnivals, as well as Picasso's visits to the Cirque Médrano in Montmartre in his early twenties, during which he befriended the performers. Their socio-political status as outsiders gave substance to some of Picasso's most poignant early works, including the iconic La famille de Saltimbanques (1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), which depicts an itinerant and seemingly destitute family of performers in a desolate landscape.

    In this present work, Picasso traces each Harlequin with a single deft stroke. His deliberate, unbroken lines flatten them to the point of pure abstraction. The undulating loops and swirls harmonise each figure into a cohesive entity, defining it in space, yet also generating a flurried medley of movement and perspective. Picasso's goal of eliminating the contours of a three-dimensional space is a hallmark of his Synthetic Cubism, the thematic successor of the Analytical Cubism which he developed with Georges Braque between 1908 to 1912. Picasso and Braque were concerned with fragmenting three-dimensional forms into geometric facets, giving them substance through shading. Conversely, this work represents Picasso forging a more 'distilled' mode of Cubism. By reducing his Harlequins into curvilinear vignettes, Picasso seeks to evoke distortion in its purist form.

    Incidentally, an iconographic hallmark of Picasso's Synthetic Cubist period was his revisiting the Harlequin and other theatrical characters that were previously ubiquitous in his Rose period (1904-1906). Theodore Reff has observed that, '... like a Cubist composition, the Harlequin's costume of flat bright colours and strongly marked patterns both fragments and conceals the underlying forms, assimilating them to a surface design of great decorative brilliance. Symbolically too this interest in a form of concealment that is also a form of revelation... links Harlequin as a type and Cubism as a style.' (T. Reff, 'Harlequins, Saltimbanques, Clowns and Fools', in Arforum 10, no. 1, 1971, p. 31). Many critics – including Reff and even the psychologist Carl Jung – interpret the Harlequin as an alter ego for Picasso himself. Indeed, Picasso's famous self-portrait, Au Lapin Agile (1905, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), depicts the 25-year-old artist in the trademark bicorne hat and patterned garb of the Harlequin, leaning demurely at the bar with a drink in hand. In this deeply psychological scene, Picasso inhabits the melancholic essence of the outcasted Harlequin, thereby evoking his isolation as a young artist.

    Between the Rose period of Au Lapin Agile and the time of this present work, the Harlequin was dormant within Picasso's oeuvre for nearly a decade. Its resurgence and aesthetic transformation here might be interpreted as a re-alignment of Picasso's social and artistic identity. Indeed, 1917 represented a major turning point in Picasso's life. Motivated by the onset of the First World War, and two failed marriage proposals, Picasso travelled to Italy for the first time at the invitation of his friend, Jean Cocteau. There he designed Cubist sets and costumes for the Ballets Russes, a ground-breaking company that facilitated collaboration between Modern artists, designers, composers and choreographers, including Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Erik Satie and Coco Chanel. Picasso's relocation to Rome scandalised his Cubist contemporaries at the Café de la Rotonde, who considered Paris the sole habitable option for artists of their calibre.

    At the Ballets Russes, Picasso met the young ballerina Olga Khokhlova, who he married in the summer of 1918. At the close of that same year, Picasso contributed three highly similar Harlequin drawings to Jean Cocteau's book, Le Coq et l'Arlequin (1918). This quasi-manifesto, which is at times didactic, comedic and absurd, defends the simplicity of the music of Satie and Stravinsky, reviling in turn the more bombastic compositions of Wagner and Debussy. In it, Cocteau mocks the 'fuzziness' of traditional 19th century paintings, which he interprets as facile spectacles of obscurity. Against this literary backdrop, and indistinguishably from this work, Picasso renders his harlequins at their most minimal. They evoke both Cocteau's ethos, with its speckled veil of farce, as well as the spontaneity and whimsy of Cocteau's choreography for the Ballets Russes.

    Just as Picasso executed this work near the close of the First World War, Marcel Michaud purchased it from Picasso in 1943 in the final stages of the Second World War. A key figure of Lyon's artistic milieu of the mid-20th century, Michaud owned Galerie Folklore and founded Groupe Témoignage in 1936, an experimental art group bringing together young sculptors and painters, many of whom were taking up the mantle of Surrealism. A few years later he gifted the work to his daughter, Françoise Dupuy who in 1951 married her husband Dominique Dupuy, and befitting to the the work's history, both are renowned for their ground-breaking contributions to dance. They performed globally as a duo aptly named 'Françoise et Dominique' in ballet, cabaret and music-hall productions. From the zeitgeist of its creation to the rich lives of its previous owners, this present work arguably serves as a remnant of the free spirit of Modernism, with interwoven ties to art, music, design and performance. Associations
    Pablo Picasso's Chapeaux d'arlequin (recto) and Arlequin (verso) is a testament to the artist's early 20th century innovations in illustration, painting, stage and set design. It showcases one of Picasso's most peripatetic periods, during which he collaborated with major composers, dancers, choreographers and artists that were together crystallising the tenets and aesthetics of Modernism – a movement with Picasso at its epicentre. Quite serendipitously, this whimsical, playful work was once owned by the famous dancer Françoise Dupuy, having been gifted to her by her father, the Avant-Garde art dealer and critic, Marcel Michaud.

    Guiding his black crayon across the paper with fluidity and flourish, Picasso renders a series of iterations of Harlequin, the stock character of 16th century Commedia dell'Arte theatre, performed throughout Europe by travelling comedy troupes. In this present work, the character is instantly recognisable from its typifying features; bicorne hats are perched at jaunty angles and ruffled collars protrude flamboyantly. A mischievous court servant, the Harlequin would perform dazzling stunts and tricks, often acting to thwart his master and gain the affections of his love interest, Columbine. Throughout the development of the Harlequinade pantomime genre in 18th century Britain, the character evolved into a prototype for the Romantic hero. The Harlequin was possibly included in Picasso's repertoire through Barcelona's annual street carnivals, as well as Picasso's visits to the Cirque Médrano in Montmartre in his early twenties, during which he befriended the performers. Their socio-political status as outsiders gave substance to some of Picasso's most poignant early works, including the iconic La famille de Saltimbanques (1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), which depicts an itinerant and seemingly destitute family of performers in a desolate landscape.

    In this present work, Picasso traces each Harlequin with a single deft stroke. His deliberate, unbroken lines flatten them to the point of pure abstraction. The undulating loops and swirls harmonise each figure into a cohesive entity, defining it in space, yet also generating a flurried medley of movement and perspective. Picasso's goal of eliminating the contours of a three-dimensional space is a hallmark of his Synthetic Cubism, the thematic successor of the Analytical Cubism which he developed with Georges Braque between 1908 to 1912. Picasso and Braque were concerned with fragmenting three-dimensional forms into geometric facets, giving them substance through shading. Conversely, this work represents Picasso forging a more 'distilled' mode of Cubism. By reducing his Harlequins into curvilinear vignettes, Picasso seeks to evoke distortion in its purist form.

    Incidentally, an iconographic hallmark of Picasso's Synthetic Cubist period was his revisiting the Harlequin and other theatrical characters that were previously ubiquitous in his Rose period (1904-1906). Theodore Reff has observed that, '... like a Cubist composition, the Harlequin's costume of flat bright colours and strongly marked patterns both fragments and conceals the underlying forms, assimilating them to a surface design of great decorative brilliance. Symbolically too this interest in a form of concealment that is also a form of revelation... links Harlequin as a type and Cubism as a style.' (T. Reff, 'Harlequins, Saltimbanques, Clowns and Fools', in Arforum 10, no. 1, 1971, p. 31). Many critics – including Reff and even the psychologist Carl Jung – interpret the Harlequin as an alter ego for Picasso himself. Indeed, Picasso's famous self-portrait, Au Lapin Agile (1905, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), depicts the 25-year-old artist in the trademark bicorne hat and patterned garb of the Harlequin, leaning demurely at the bar with a drink in hand. In this deeply psychological scene, Picasso inhabits the melancholic essence of the outcasted Harlequin, thereby evoking his isolation as a young artist.

    Between the Rose period of Au Lapin Agile and the time of this present work, the Harlequin was dormant within Picasso's oeuvre for nearly a decade. Its resurgence and aesthetic transformation here might be interpreted as a re-alignment of Picasso's social and artistic identity. Indeed, 1917 represented a major turning point in Picasso's life. Motivated by the onset of the First World War, and two failed marriage proposals, Picasso travelled to Italy for the first time at the invitation of his friend, Jean Cocteau. There he designed Cubist sets and costumes for the Ballets Russes, a ground-breaking company that facilitated collaboration between Modern artists, designers, composers and choreographers, including Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Erik Satie and Coco Chanel. Picasso's relocation to Rome scandalised his Cubist contemporaries at the Café de la Rotonde, who considered Paris the sole habitable option for artists of their calibre.

    At the Ballets Russes, Picasso met the young ballerina Olga Khokhlova, who he married in the summer of 1918. At the close of that same year, Picasso contributed three highly similar Harlequin drawings to Jean Cocteau's book, Le Coq et l'Arlequin (1918). This quasi-manifesto, which is at times didactic, comedic and absurd, defends the simplicity of the music of Satie and Stravinsky, reviling in turn the more bombastic compositions of Wagner and Debussy. In it, Cocteau mocks the 'fuzziness' of traditional 19th century paintings, which he interprets as facile spectacles of obscurity. Against this literary backdrop, and indistinguishably from this work, Picasso renders his harlequins at their most minimal. They evoke both Cocteau's ethos, with its speckled veil of farce, as well as the spontaneity and whimsy of Cocteau's choreography for the Ballets Russes.

    Just as Picasso executed this work near the close of the First World War, Marcel Michaud purchased it from Picasso in 1943 in the final stages of the Second World War. A key figure of Lyon's artistic milieu of the mid-20th century, Michaud owned Galerie Folklore and founded Groupe Témoignage in 1936, an experimental art group bringing together young sculptors and painters, many of whom were taking up the mantle of Surrealism. A few years later he gifted the work to his daughter, Françoise Dupuy who in 1951 married her husband Dominique Dupuy, and befitting to the the work's history, both are renowned for their ground-breaking contributions to dance. They performed globally as a duo aptly named 'Françoise et Dominique' in ballet, cabaret and music-hall productions. From the zeitgeist of its creation to the rich lives of its previous owners, this present work arguably serves as a remnant of the free spirit of Modernism, with interwoven ties to art, music, design and performance.
Contacts
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973) Chapeaux d'arlequin (recto); Arlequin (verso), circa 1918
PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973) Chapeaux d'arlequin (recto); Arlequin (verso), circa 1918
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