Carmen, Plate XXVIII [Femme Accoudée]

[Woman Leaning on her Elbow]

From the artist’s illustrated book, Carmen

Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Date: May 6, 1948, in Golfe-Juan
Medium: Engraving with chisel (burin)
Dimensions: Sheet 330 x 259 mm, 13 x 10 3/16” (the copper plate, at 360 x 280 mm, was larger than the sheet according to Baer; hence the absence of platemarks)
Signature: The edition was unsigned, except on the justification page of the book
References: Baer 824, Cramer 52, Bloch 531-568 (Bloch does not assign specific numbers to the engravings and illustrates but 4 of the 38 of them, including this one)
Edition: 255/289, printed by Lacourière in 1949 before he cancelled the plate
Paper: Montval wove; untrimmed; deckled edges on sides and bottom; the engraving is on the front sheet of a folded double-sheet as issued.  The back side of the engraving is blank.  The other half of the double-sheet includes the text of the illustrated book Carmen on its front and back, and is paginated 121 and 122.
Watermark: Montval
Impression: Fine
Condition: Pristine
Price: Upon request

I had been trying to acquire this lovely engraving since the early ‘80s when I first started collecting Picassos.  The problem, until now, has been that it is usually sold as a part of the artist’s illustrated book Carmen, which includes 38 engravings and 4 aquatints, and when dealers sell the engravings singly, this one is generally sold first.  Thus, I have never before found available this individual engraving, which is in my opinion by far the most beautiful one.

The Goepperts and Cramer offer the following backstory:

Carmen, Prosper Mérimée’s novella, was written in 1845….  It is at once a rather romanticized account of the customs of the Andalusian gypsies and the dramatic story of a fatal passion.  While traveling in Spain, the narrator meets a bandit, José Navarro, and does him a favor….  Shortly thereafter, in Cordoba, he again runs into José, in altercation with a beautiful gypsy, Carmen.  Several months later, in Cordoba again, the narrator hears that the brigand has been arrested and is going to be executed….  In prison, Don José tells the narrator his story: as a young man of gentle and serious character, he had been bewitched by Carmen.  For her, he had become a brigand, thief, and assassin.  When Carmen left him for a picador, José despaired and killed her….  The story of Carmen, which became popular through Georges Bizet’s opera (1875), evoked in Picasso associations with Spain and the corrida….  The illustrations consist of several studies of different facial features of men and women; there are also some heads of bulls.  (S. Goeppert, H. Goeppert-Frank, P. Cramer, Pablo Picasso, The Illustrated Books: Catalogue Raisonné, published by Cramer, Geneva 1983, pp. 143-4)

The stylized portrait at hand, which Picasso pared down to its most essential lines, appears to depict a woman resting her head upon her elbow.  I have accordingly offered this numbered but previously untitled work the bracketed title Femme Accoudée (Woman Resting on her Elbow), one of the poses of Picasso’s women to which he returned again and again.

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