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Christie's Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art to feature nine works by Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso, Le déjeuner sur l'herbe. Colored wax crayons and brush and black ink on panel, 14 x 18 in. (35.5 x 45.7 cm.) Executed in Cannes, 11 August 1959. Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s New York announced its upcoming Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on November 7 will feature an impressive group of nine works by Pablo Picasso. This extraordinary selection from various private collections features the rare Picasso bronze sculpture Coq, making its first appearance at auction, along with a diverse range of portraits of the artist’s female muses, reflecting the remarkably strong market performance of these iconic paintings in recent years. The sale of the eight works is expected to realize a combined total in excess of $34 million.

The star lot, Coq (estimate: $10-15 million), was first modeled in 1932 and cast in the 1950s. It dates from the years Picasso spent at his chateau at Boisgeloup in Normandy, producing some of the most important paintings and sculptures of his long and prolific career. The secluded estate was a haven for the artist and his young mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, with whom he had begun a passionate, clandestine affair some years earlier. His sculpture of a proud rooster flamboyantly twisting his head backward to preen his showy plumage of tail feathers is the very image of strutting male virility. Its dynamic form and lively sense of immediacy stand as the perfect counterpoint to the soft femininity of his Marie-Thérèse sculptures of the same year. The rooster, long an emblem of France, would figure prominently as a motif throughout Picasso’s later career, but Coq of 1932 stands as a singular expression of the great sense of accomplishment and pride that Picasso so clearly felt during that magical summer in Boisgeloup.

Initially sculpted in plaster, Picasso commissioned Valsuani to cast a numbered edition of bronzes in the 1950s, of which only four were ever created. Two other examples are housed in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The upcoming sale marks the first time any cast from this edition has ever appeared at auction; the Coq to be featured at Christie’s in November was acquired by the current owners more than 45 years ago and has remained in the same distinguished American collection since.

As a fitting complement to Picasso’s proud rooster, the upcoming sale also features a gallery of portraits of his greatest loves -- his first wife Olga Khokhlova, his muses Dora Maar and Françoise Gilot, and his second wife Jacqueline Roque. Taken as a group, the portraits tell the remarkable story of Picasso’s exuberant personal life and illustrate the full range of his stylistic arsenal.

Painted in 1929, more than a decade into his volatile marriage with Olga Khokhlova, Buste de femme (estimate: $3-5 million) offers a revealing look at the vexing relationship Picasso shared with his Russian-born wife. Olga’s serrated profile is punctuated by a row of white teeth, from which a crimson reptilian tongue flicks forward. She stands at a golden-framed mirror, a clever compositional device that allows Picasso to suggest we are catching a glimpse into the dark interior psychological life of the painting’s subject. While his marriage to Olga would last several more years, the portrait is a testament to Picasso’s turbulent feelings for his wife, which in turn triggered a newly dynamic and confrontational phase of the artist’s work. Offered from the Colin Family Collection, Buste de femme has been widely exhibited in both the U.S. and Europe.

By contrast, Picasso’s 1937 Buste de femme (estimate: $8-12 million) is an unusually warm and intimate portrait of the artist's raven-haired muse, the photographer Dora Maar. Arrayed in sophisticated evening dress, with a splash of rouge on her cheeks, this smiling vision of Picasso’s famously mercurial mistress counts among the most open and accessible of his depictions of her. Only two months earlier, Picasso had deformed Dora’s lovely features into a mask of sorrow for his wrenching Weeping Woman series, effectively using her face as a mirror to reflect the brewing violence of the times. Perhaps as a necessary antidote to the catharsis of the Weeping Woman series and Guernica before it, Picasso made a brief return to the more congenial seated portrait with Buste de femme, creating this rare alluring depiction of Dora. Picasso kept the painting in his personal collection for nearly 30 years after its completion, leaving it to his second wife Jacqueline Roque upon his death. The upcoming sale marks the first time the portrait has ever been offered at auction.

Christie’s will also offer Picasso’s 1952 oil on canvas Tête de femme (estimate: $4-6 million). The portrait depicts Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s lover and companion from 1946 to 1953 and the mother of his children Claude and Paloma. While not immediately recognizable, she can be best identified by her luxuriant mane of hair. Pulled back and flowing in thick locks around her shoulders, Françoise’s hair is worn casually loose to frame the subject's glowing moon-like face, marking a departure from Picasso’s earlier depictions of his female muses whose hair was either abbreviated or worn in various fastened styles. Tête de femme also is indicative of a novel stylistic development for Picasso in this period: the iteration of line and completion of forms using a flattened baroque tracery. In Tête de femme, this technique is rendered in paint as if it were a sculpture, with Picasso treating the linear elements like twisting strands of wrought ironwork.

Femme au chien (estimate: $5-7million) is Picasso’s nearly life-sized portrait of his second wife, Jacqueline Roque, accompanied by the couple’s Afghan hound, Kaboul. Picasso adored dogs and many of his works from the 1950s on incorporate his canines. Still, it is Jacqueline who dominates this 1962 composition, testifying to her significance as the mistress of Notre-Dame-de-Vie, the couple’s spacious farmhouse near Mougins, and her status as a muse and partner in Picasso’s final years. Jacqueline was the last great love of Picasso’s life, and her image forms the largest group of portraits of the artist’s oeuvre. Here she is depicted enthroned in an armchair, her stateliness and dignity heightened by the regal bearing of the hound by her side. Because Afghan hounds were a rare breed in 1960s-era France, Kaboul became something of a celebrity in his own right. Picasso painted six large-scale portraits of Jacqueline with the dog between December 1961 and November 1962; one of these fetched $11 million at Christie’s London in June 2012.

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