Home Corporate Events Picasso’s Young Mistress Masterpiece, “Femme à la montre” Unveils $120m Masterpiece at Auction

Picasso’s Young Mistress Masterpiece, “Femme à la montre” Unveils $120m Masterpiece at Auction

by Ikenna Ngere

When it is auctioned off this fall, a Picasso masterpiece named “Femme à la montre” is predicted to bring in more than $120 million.

When the collection of Emily Fisher Landau is put up for auction in November, a two-day event at Sotheby’s in New York will feature the 1932 oil painting prominently.

The painting, which has a size of 51¼ x 38 inches (130 x 96.5 centimetres), features Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s “golden muse” and the subject of many of his portraits.

The painting, which the auction house claims dates from one of the Spanish artist’s busiest periods, was the focus of a comprehensive exhibition held in 2018 at the Tate Modern in London and the Musée Picasso in Paris.

In a statement announcing the sale, Julian Dawes, Sotheby’s head of Impressionist & Modern Art for the Americas, said: “Picasso’s ‘Femme à la Montre’ is a masterpiece by every measure. Painted in 1932—Picasso’s ‘annus mirabilis’—it is full of joyful, passionate abandon yet at the same time it is utterly considered and resolved. Its bold primary colors sing from the five-foot-tall-canvas.”

Picasso and Walter initially met in Paris in 1927 when she was 17 and he was still living with his first wife, a Russian-Ukrainian ballet dancer named Olga Khokhlova. Some of his most sought-after canvases, drawings, and sculptures would be inspired by Walter.

Picasso struggled more and more to keep his affections for Walter hidden from the public as time went on; this difficulty became apparent during his first major retrospective, which ultimately led to the end of his marriage.

Soon after the exhibition at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris came to a close, the artist painted “Femme à la montre” in August 1932.

According to Sotheby’s, “the sense of release from keeping secrets about his affair seem to have spilled out onto this extraordinary canvas, in which he gives full painterly rein to new-found freedoms, drenching the painting in strong primary colors and beautiful forms, while at the same time paying careful attention to every small detail, creating a composition that is both intensely complex and deeply harmonious.”

Picasso died in 1973, and Walter in 1977.

According to The Art Newspaper, the painting is one of roughly 120 from the collection of Fisher Landau, a well-known modern art collector who passed away earlier this year at the age of 102.

The collection, which also includes pieces by Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and Georgia O’Keeffe, is anticipated to fetch a total of more than $400 million.

After receiving an insurance payment following an armed robbery of Fisher Landau’s jewellery at her New York residence in 1969, she started taking collections seriously.

In an interview for an exhibition catalog, quoted in the Sotheby’s statement, she said of the episode: “Even though Lloyds of London paid up, there was no way to replace that collection. It was so beautiful. And they got it in one fell swoop…. I was devastated. But I decided that I didn’t want the jewelry any more. I now had seed money for a collection.”

Picasso sold Walter’s strangest portrait, in which she is shown as a tentacled sea creature, for $67.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York last year.

Picasso’s portraits of Walter are in high demand; his other 1932 pieces, “Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse),” and “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” sold for $106.5 million and $103.41 million in 2010 and 2021, respectively.

Picasso’s “Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”)” sold at Christie’s in New York in May 2015 for $179.4 million, setting a record for the most money ever spent at an auction for a piece of art.

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