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Pablo Picasso's golden museum stars at Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art Sale
Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme. Painted on March 12, 1935. Estimate $20/30 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- A radiant image from Pablo Picasso’s celebrated series depicting Marie-Thérèse Walter, his young lover and muse, will highlight Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in New York on 6 November 2013.

Tête de femme is one of the most vibrant examples of these euphoric and fantastical pictures from the early 1930s, which rank among the most instantly recognizable works of 20th century art. Painted in March of 1935, the work is distinguished as perhaps the last major canvas that the artist completed before taking a year-long break from painting, during the time of his contentious divorce from Olga Khokhlova as well as Marie-Thérèse’s pregnancy with their child, Maya.

Tête de femme is estimated to sell for $20/30 million in the November auction*. The work will be on view in Hong Kong, London and Moscow before returning to New York for exhibition beginning 1 November.

David Norman, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department Worldwide, commented: “Of all the manifestations of Picasso's prolific career, it was during the reign of his golden muse Marie-Thérèse Walter that his creativity was at its most powerful. His work was refreshed by his young love, inspiring him to paint the most colorful, joyful and ambitious compositions of his entire oeuvre. The market has demonstrated a great appreciation for this series– Picasso’s depictions of Marie-Thérèse have proven the most desirable of his works among today’s collectors, and enjoy a truly global appeal.”

In the last five years, six of Picasso’s depictions of Marie-Thérèse have achieved prices of more than $20 million at auction. The most recent examples were sold at Sotheby’s in London and New York: Femme assise près d'une fenêtre, which sold for $44.8 million in London in February 2013, and Nature morte aux tulipes, which sold for $41.5 million in New York in November 2012.

Picasso first saw Marie-Thérèse Walter on the streets of Paris in 1927, when she was 17 years old, and while he was entangled in an unhappy marriage to Olga Khokhlova. The couple's relationship remained a well-guarded secret for many years. But the covertness of the affair only intensified Picasso's obsession with Marie-Thérèse, and many of his pictures, with their dramatic contrasts of light and dark, allude to their secret interludes held under cover of darkness.

Soon after learning on Christmas Eve of 1934 that Marie-Thérèse was pregnant with his child, Picasso promised to file for a divorce from Olga. His lawyers advised him to separate from his lover during the proceedings, which devastated the artist during this intimate time in their relationship. Soon after painting Tête de femme on 12 March 1935 – when Marie-Thérèse was just ending her first trimester of pregnancy – he ceased all work on painting for a period of nearly a year. The present work stands as the last major canvas completed before this hiatus, drawing on Renaissance iconography to create a magnificent image of his Madonna.

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