The Skull of a Goat
Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Date: May 14, 1952 (dated in the plate “14 mai 52” in Picasso’s hand, top right)
Medium: Sugar-lift aquatint
Dimensions: P 473 x 642 mm, 18.6 x 25.3″; S 570 x 738 mm, 22.4 x 29″
Signature: Signed “Picasso” in graphite pencil and inscribed 16/50 also in pencil, lower left
References: Bloch 691; Baer 890 BaC;
Giraudy, Danièle, L’oeuvre de Picasso à Antibes n°3, Catalogue des gravures, Antibes: Ed. Musée Picasso, 1982 / isbn 2 902634 13 7 /illus. p. 26
Picasso chez Goya: Musée Goya, Castres, 26 juin-29 août 1987. – Castres: Ed. Musée Goya, 1987, isbn 2 901 643 027, illus. p. 69
Picasso graveur: Musée Léon Dierx, Saint-Denis, Musée Picasso, Antibes, juin 1990. Antibes: Ed. Musée Picasso, 1990 / isbn 209 05-315-261, illus. p. 15, cit. p. 10 and 15
Giraudy, Danièle, Picasso chez Picasso, Antibes: Ed. Musée Picasso, 1991 / isbn 2 90531538 8, illus. p. 76
Edition: Numbered 14/50 on Arches laid paper; printed by Lacourière and published the same year by Galerie Louise Leiris before the cancellation of the plate
Paper: Arches wove; untrimmed, 4 deckled edges
Condition: Excellent (one small, non-acidic hinge remnant verso top right; trace, almost invisible toning of the peripheral margins)
Price: Upon request
In the early 1950s, Picasso made a number of works spurred by the suffering in the Korean War. Alternatively, this print could have been a contemplation of the artist’s own mortality in view of his advancing age, as he was seventy-one years old at the time.
The goat’s skull is an archetypal symbol of death, and, as such, falls into a time-honored tradition of still life painting of various objects that symbolize the brevity of human life and the transience of earthly pleasures. These still lifes are variably termed vanitas (Latin for vanity) or memento mori (remember you must die). In Picasso’s hand, the memento mori also included such gothic icons as human skulls, tomes, and candles.
Have you ever been to La Colombe d’Or in St. Paul de Vence (in the French Riviera)? It’s one of our favorite hotels in the world, not the least of which reasons is that they have a world-class art collection (see my blog about it here), including a phenomenal Picasso still-life canvas and two original Picasso prints. Le Crâne de Chèvre is one of those two, which Jacqueline gave to the owners, the Roux family (personal communication from the family). Picasso had given the original owner, Paul Roux, an oil as a present while the latter was hospitalized—the owner’s son selected it out of the choices Picasso presented him. I’ve loved both this poignant portrait of a goat and the oil ever since my first viewing back in the 1980s….