Skull of a Goat on a Table
Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Medium: Sugar-lift aquatint
Dimensions: P 514 x 665 mm, 20.2 x 26.2″; S 567 x 750mm, 22.3 x 29.5″
Signature: Signed “Picasso” in red pencil, lower right; in lower left by another hand, the words “epreuve d’artiste” are written in pencil.
References: Bloch 696 (Bloch in error lists the year as 1952); Baer 903 Bb2, the third and final state
Edition: From among 12 proofs on Arches paper printed by Lacourière in 1953, prior to the edition of 50 on the same paper and in the same year before the cancellation of the plate
Paper: Arches; untrimmed
Impression: Very fine, beautifully deep black impression
Condition: Fine, apart from some foxing on verso in the extreme top and bottom margins, with tiny, 1mm foxing showing through on recto but hidden behind the matting; framed
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.
This beauty of this print, like many other Picasso aquatints, is poorly conveyed photographically. One has to behold the actual image to witness the dramatic silvery gray and black tonality which strengthen it. The gravity of this image, the richness of the printing, and the large scale of the work result in a very powerful and moving work of art. In contradistinction to the starkness of the exfoliated goat’s head, the softness of his eye hints at his serenity in death.