Minotaur, Drinker, and Women
Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Medium: Drypoint, etching, scraper and burin on copper
Dimensions: Print 298 x 365mm, 11 3/4 x 14 3/8; Sheet 340 x 445mm, 13.4 x 17.5″
Signature: Signed “Picasso” in pencil, lower right. (By Petiet’s hand, in the lower left corner, 362 is written in pencil.)
Suite Vollard 92;
Baer 368 IVBd;
D. Wye, A Picasso Portfolio: Prints from the Museum of Modern Art; MOMA, 2010, ills. p. 51.
Edition: From the edition of 260 on Montval paper printed by Lacouriere in 1939 before the cancellation of the plate. (There was also an edition of 50 on wider-margined paper that same year.)
Paper: Montval laid; untrimmed
Impression: Very fine
Price: Upon request
This large-format image from the Vollard series depicts an unusual twist on Picasso’s portrayals of the Minotaur in which this mythological chimera is represented as a mask held in the hand of a young actor. This young man also sports the Minotaur’s tail, which is suspended by a belt around his waist. Although Picasso’s meaning is impossible to plumb with certainty, it is at least interesting to note that the first state of this print unambiguously depicts a Minotaur in his entirety. By the second state, a metamorphosis has occurred which depicts an actor bearing the Minotaur’s mask. Is Picasso the artist saying that the sex drive of Picasso the man is only a mask and as such an interchangeable feature of his personality? Brigitte Baer is more impressed by the feminine qualities of the face of the young actor, and suggests that they indicate the feminine side of the Minotaur.
Elsewhere in the composition, Marie-Thérèse is represented in duplicate as both seated and reclining figures. A bearded man holds aloft a wine glass, a toast in celebration of life. Despite the presumed frivolity of the bacchanalian setting, a pensive, removed look is beautifully depicted in each of the faces. Is Picasso thereby also taking a step back from the immediacy of the celebration and considering the deeper meaning of his life?
Of the 100 works that comprise the Vollard Suite, there were but 17 prints of this size (including one larger). Of these large works, it is one of the most valuable and easily one of my favorites, especially because of the complex but tight composition, and the graphically masterful and tender depictions of the five visages therein. The thick black lines and the subtle gray tonality of this print as well as its comparatively large scale render it quite striking from across the room. I’ve had nearly transcendental experiences first viewing this print from afar, then at mid-range, and finally, from way up close, examining the drypoint’s textured, thick black line. To my eye, there is no more appealing line in the Vollard Suite than this.