For the first time ever, Pablo Picasso’s famous painting ‘Femme nue couchée’, painted in April 1932, is all set to be auctioned next month. According to auction house Sotheby’s, the work is poised to sell for more than $60 million at Modern Evening Auction on May 17, making it “one of the most valuable portraits of Marie-Therese Walter ever offered at auction”.
Termed as one of “Pablo Picasso’s most monumental and uninhibitedly sensual portrayals of Marie-Thérèse Walter”, the portrait is from the acclaimed painter’s most prolific years. “So extraordinarily was Picasso’s output that year, an entire museum exhibition has been dedicated to it,” Sotheby’s noted in a press release.
In this portrait, Picasso evoked Walter, who has been the inspiration for many of his greatest works, with the strong and sensuous fin-like limbs of a sea creature. It is believed that the allusion to the sea here is quite significant as Walter was also an avid and accomplished swimmer. Her athletic grace in the water was a source of constant fascination for the painter. Additionally, the two of them have also spent a considerable amount of time during their relationship by the sea.
“Picasso’s portraits of his golden muse Marie-Thérèse are undeniable hallmarks of 20th-century art. When unveiled at his career retrospective in 1932, this cycle of monumental works scintillated with their rapturously romantic and sensuous depiction of Picasso’s heretofore sequestered mistress,” Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s chairman and worldwide head of global fine art sales said.
He added that this painting is “a radical departure from tradition”. “This striking painting is at the same time a deeply lyrical ode to the artist’s unbound desire for Marie-Thérèse; with her fin-like, endlessly pliable limbs, the portrait continues to enchant as it perfectly captures Picasso’s muse as the ultimate expression of his genius.”
Picasso first met Walter in 1927 in Paris, when she was just 17 and he was still married to Olga Khokhlova, a Russian-Ukrainian dancer. Walter went on to become the inspiration for some of his most sought-after works including canvases, drawings and sculptures. “For Picasso, Marie-Thérèse offered a sensual amalgam of the lover, the model, and the goddess, and would be cast in many roles throughout his body of work.”
Helena Newman, Sotheby’s worldwide head of impressionist and modern art, called Femme nue couchée “ground-breaking” and an “extraordinarily sensual work”. “Marking the first time this painting will appear at auction, our Modern Evening Sale will be a defining moment in solidifying 1932 as one of Picasso’s most critically important and sought-after periods.”