Picasso’s Seminal, Rapturous Portrait Of Nude Mistress-Muse Expected To Fetch As Much As $21 Million

Pablo Picasso, ‘Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse)’ (1932)

Pablo Picasso was infatuated with Marie-Thérèse Walter when their gaze met near the Galeries Lafayette in 1927. Five years later, he depicted her ample naked body in repose, one hand cradling her head, the other framing her pert, round breast. The nude figure slumbering against a vibrant blue, green, and red backdrop became a prototype for a series of some ten paintings created between March and August 1932.

Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse) (June 18, 1932) is expected to fetch between £9 million and £15 million ($12.4 million and $20.7 million) when it leads the Christie’s 20th Century Art Evening Sale on March 23 in London.

Pablo Picasso, ‘Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline)’ (1962)


The stunning nude joins Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline) (1962), which is expected to sell for between £6 million and £9 million ($8.3 million and $12.4 million), as the other highlight of the sale. The portrait of Picasso’s wife marks another significant stylistic point in the prolific master’s sweeping career.

Unlike his slumbering lover, whose pose was unknowingly captured, Jacqueline Picasso sits upright, fully clothed, with her arms resting on a wing-back chair, staring directly at the viewer.

“The two portraits are major highlights of our upcoming season and represent two very distinct periods of Picasso’s oeuvre. The vitality of Marie-Thérèse is captured in the intimate composition Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse), which was created during 1932, a year that is widely regarded as one of the most iconic moments of his career. Thirty years later, Picasso has depicted his final muse Jacqueline in Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline),” Keith Gill, co-head of sale, said in an email. “Viewed together, the paintings also define seminal moments autobiographically. They represent two very different women whose influence shaped Picasso’s artistic output, defining stylistic epochs.”

Walter’s inspiration as mistress and muse is indispensable in appreciating the impact of Picasso’s work in 1932. Embracing a brazen style born from his passion for his voluptuous lover, his paintings of her reflected the magnitude and ferocity of their affair, replete with boundless, harmonious affection.

The 16-square-inch Femme nue couchée au collier last sold at Christie’s in New York for $11.1 million, against an estimate of between $8 million and $12 million.

Paintings from this renowned series are housed in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Musée Picasso in Paris, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Pablo Picasso ‘Femme au béret mauve’ (1937)

A starkly different 1937 portrait of Walter, alert and elegantly attired, that has been in a private collection for more than three decades will be offered at Bonhams in New York on May 13. Femme au béret mauve will be on view for the first time in some 30 years in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, and Hong Kong, ahead of the auction where it is anticipated to sell for between $10 million and $15 million.

Picasso simultaneously carried on affairs with Walter and French photographer, painter, and poet Dora Maar. Picasso and Walter became lovers when she was seventeen years old and he was 45 and still living with his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, a Ukrainian ballet dancer of noble descent, between 1918 and 1955. He was married to Jacqueline Roque from 1961 until his death in 1973, creating more than 400 portraits of her, more than any other subject.

Femme au béret mauve was painted in Le Tremblay-sur-Mauldre, France, a year after the Spanish Civil War broke out, the same period that sparked his masterpiece Guernica, as well as a portrait of Maar in the collection of Tate Modern in London.

Also on the block March 23 are masterpieces by Jean Dubuffet, Fernand Léger, Max Ernst, Jean Fautrier, Joan Miró, and Alexander Calder, from a private French collection. The sale will feature a wide array of artists including: Josef Albers, an American-German artist best known for his iconic color square paintings; German-British painter Frank Auerbach; German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer; Bridget Riley, a London-based painter regarded for her op-art paintings; and Gerhard Richter.

The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale, led by René Magritte’s masterpiece Le mois des vendanges (1959), will immediately follow the 20th Century bidding.

A multiple-award-winning journalist, I’ve held top editorial roles at The Associated Press and Dow Jones. A former student of literature, studio art and art history with