Picasso’s Matador painting from 1970 was sold at US$17.9 million dollars earlier this year, achieving the highest ever price so far for a Picasso artwork in Asia.
Following this feat, Femme Accroupie (1954) is expected to fetch between US$19.2 and 29.5 million (HK$150,000,000 – 230,000,000) dollars, setting to surpass this previous Asian auction record.
A portrait of Picasso's late wife, Jacqueline Roque, Femme Accroupie will be featured in Sotheby's Hong Kong Modern Art Evening Sale on 9 October.
Pablo Picasso | Femme Accroupie, Oil and ripolin on canvas
Created in 1954
92.2 x 73 cm
- Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
- Collection of Kate and Allan Emil (acquired from the above by 1957)
- Private Collection, New York (by gift before 1969)
Estimated Price: HK$150,000,000 – 230,000,000 (around US$19.2 and 29.5 million)
Pablo and Jacqueline
Who is in the portrait?
Femme Accroupie (Crouching Lady, 1954) depicts Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s last lover and wife.
Jacqueline became the most frequent and longest-running subject in Picasso's career, featuring in more than 400 portraits - exceeding any of her husband's previous lovers. First appeared in Picasso’s Jacqueline aux Fleurs and Jacqueline aux Bras Croises, painted on successive days of 2 and 3 June 1954 respectively.
The couple first met in 1952, when the Spanish artist lived in Vallauris, a small town on the southern coast of France known for its pottery. Picasso was fascinated by ceramics at the time, and the two met while Jacqueline was working at Madoura Pottery. It was the studio where he spent a significant time.
Picasso ended his relationship with his previous lover, Francoise Gilot, in 1953. Jacqueline and Picasso would be together for the next 20 years. After their marriage in 1961, she carried the artist through the final chapter of his life and illustrious career.
Picasso was influenced by different artistic forerunners, including Delacroix and Matisse.
Femme Accroupie was the first in a series of paintings that looked back to the work of previous masters, giving it immense historical weight.
Delacroix’s Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (1834)
When he first met Jacqueline, Picasso’s acute visual memory immediately connected her face to Eugene Delacroix’s famed Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (1834).
The woman sitting with one knee raised on the right side of the French Romantic artist’s painting has a classic Mediterranean charm very similar to Jacqueline’s. Picasso once tenderly explained this coincidence, “Delacroix had already met Jacqueline.”
Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were early rivals, then friends
This interest in the Oriental world was further emphasised with Matisse’s influence on Picasso’s works. Like Delacroix, Matisse depicted Turkish odalisques with brilliantly coloured, ornate backgrounds since 1918.
Not long after he painted Femme Accroupie in 1954, Picasso learned of the death of Matisse. An early rival and later friend to the Spanish artist, Matisse stood at the forefront with his contemporary. “When Matisse died, he left his odalisques to me as a legacy.”
Several weeks later, Picasso began developing his Les Femmes d’Alger series, inspired by Jacqueline.
Matisse's Odalisque sitting with board (1928)
Before Jacqueline moved to southern France, she was married to a colonial official and lived in Upper Volta (modern-day Burkina Faso). Picasso, who was captivated by African culture for more than half a century, was fascinated with Jacqueline’s experiences of the continent. He once said, “Jacqueline has an African provenance.”
All of Delacroix, Matisse and Jacqueline inspired Picasso to transform his muse into one of the odalisques so often found in Orientalist paintings. In addition to Jacqueline's physical resemblance to a languid, sensual odalisque, she also had the gentle temperament.
The power dynamic in Pablo and Jacqueline's relationship is fully reflected in the model's seated posture and her gentle gaze meeting that of the artist outside the painting.
Jacqueline’s features in Femme Accroupie represent a change from the sculptural quality Picasso had given them earlier in the series, depicting her with a surreal double face divided into left and right profiles that interlock to create the contours of a complete visage.
The layered, interconnecting planes create endless visual interest, and offer an alternative way to present three-dimensional space in two dimensions. Picasso often used this technique in his paintings of women, resonating previous portraits of Francoise Gilot and Sylvette David.
By the 1950s, Picasso was also applying techniques he mastered from papercutting and sheet metal sculpture to his paintings, constructing multiple angles that enabled him to offer the viewer the complete picture of Jacqueline’s charm.
Emil Family Collection
This painting comes directly from Kate and Allan Emil’s family collection since its acquisition in 1957. Femme Accroupie was exhibited in many art institutions in the United States, including Washington Gallery of Modern Art and Saidenberg Gallery.
Part of the Emil family’s art collection was donated to world-class museums in New York, including Metropolitan Museum of of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art.
Picasso's Jacqueline Assise (1954) | Picasso Museum, Malaga
Picasso’s Femme Accroupie (Jacqueline, 1954) | Sold in Christie's New York, 2017
Picasso drew a series of similar Jacqueline portraits, including Jacqueline Assise (1954). It is exhibited in Malaga's Picasso Museum.
Picasso’s Femme Accroupie (Jacqueline, 1954) fetched US$36.8 million dollars at Christie's New York in 2017.
Picasso’s Femme Accroupie (1954) is expected to be another success in this upcoming auction, valued between US$19.2 and 29.5 million dollars.
His Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) painting holds the record for a Picasso painting at an auction, sold at US$179.4 million dollars.
Picasso's Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”, 1955) | Sold in Christie's New York, 2015
Auction House: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Date: 9 October 2021
Sale: Modern Art Evening Sale