Time was you could still land a nice Picasso canvas for under a mil. Today, with few exceptions, you’re looking at a cool 2 or 3 mil, or then some, for a starter Picasso. Yet, more likely than not, what you get for your money is uninspiring.
So along comes this offering at Christie’s London. I must say that the first time I leafed through their online catalogue, this painting didn’t catch my eye. That first time around, I had judged it merely as one would a still life and, as such, I readily dismissed it. After all, Picasso certainly painted many more beautiful and more clever still lifes. But when my printed catalogue arrived, I gave it a closer look. Now I saw a lovely, colorful painting in which Picasso’s lover Marie-Thérèse is depicted not once but twice, as the bowl of fruit in the foreground and also in the drawing-within-a-painting hanging on the wall. The jug struck me as rather masculine, convincing me that it represents a male suitor, Picasso to the fruit bowl’s Marie-T. Of course the master’s ego had to endure an ample belly, a small sacrifice in the service of art. As if resigned to this fate, he highlighted his contour in white. Well, there are other Picasso portraits of women à la pitchers, two of them quite renowned, but offhand I can’t think of another artwork in which the pitcher is the doppelgänger for the Maitre himself. (By the way, the Christie’s catalogue caption is well-crafted and informative and totally worth reading. And its author agrees with me, at least on most points.)
There is an auction history for this piece. It BI’ed in 2005 on an estimate of 600-800K USD, but it did sell in 2010, not the very best of times, for just over 1.1M USD.
All things considered, this is a pretty nice entry-level oil, and, at 56 cm, not even a small one at that. And it’s signed, for what that’s worth. All this, on an estimate of 800,000 – 1,200,000 GBP (1,213,040 – 1,819,560 USD). Not bad for a starter Picasso….