Search for over 80 million sold items in our price database

Composition (Composition au Minotaure)
Sold

About the item

Beautifully detailed and replete with allegorical and mythical imagery, the present work belongs to a series of Minotaur compositions that Picasso completed in May 1936 (figs. 1 & 2). The scene features a cast of characters who by this point were commonly represented in Picasso’s repertoire, but their significance here was much more heavily invested with biographical detail. These three pictures were considered by Picasso as amongst his most treasured works, and remained with him until his death, when the present work was inherited by his granddaughter Marina, and the other two formed part of the collection of the Musée Picasso in Paris. ‘If you marked on a map all the routes along which I passed and drew a line to join them together’, Picasso once remarked, ‘it would perhaps take the shape of a Minotaur’ (reprinted in Picasso and Greece (exhibtion catalogue), op. cit., back cover). The present work, executed with transparent washes of colour that enhance the element of fantasy, perfectly exemplifies this statement.\nWhen he completed this picture in the late spring of 1936, Picasso was experiencing a drastic upheaval in his personal life. His marriage to Olga was in shambles, his mistress Marie-Thérèse had recently given birth to the couple’s daughter Maya, and his new love interest, Dora Maar, was now inserting herself within the drama of Picasso’s personal life. The scene depicted in the present work provides a dramatic narrative that can readily be applied to Picasso’s current state of affairs.  On the left appears the unmistakable image of Marie-Thérèse, shrouded by the sail, while the impaled Minotaur, understood to be the alter-ego of the artist who has fallen on his own sword, lies in agony at her feet. The bucking horse, which would appear a year later in Picasso’s harrowing Guernica, could be interpreted as a stand-in for Dora, while the black shadow over the dying beast is perhaps an allusion to the menace of Olga. Rich with interpretive possibility, this picture is one of the most visually engaging from Picasso’s fascinating series that spring.\n\nThe image of the Minotaur, a character of Cretan mythology born of the union between Pasiphaë and a bull, first appeared in Picasso's work in a collage of 1928, now at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris. In 1933 Picasso executed another version of this subject for the cover for the first issue of Minotaure, a Surrealist periodical published by Albert Skira and Tériade in Paris. It was primarily the hybrid nature of the creature that appealed to Picasso and many Surrealist artists, who delighted in the union of opposing forces embodied in this figure. In a number of Picasso's works throughout the 1930s, including several preparatory sketches for Guernica, the Minotaur is depicted as a ferocious animal, often in scenes of rape and violence. In the present work, however, his fierce character appears at the mercy of the women surrounding him.\n\nIt appears that Picasso has conflated several stories of Greek mythology in this intricate composition. The raft on which the Minotaur lies dying alludes to the raft of Odysseus, while the laurel-crowned Marie-Thérèse could be a reference to the virtuous Calypso, the nymph-lover whom Odysseus abandoned in order to return to his wife. A female version of Theseus, who in Plutarch’s telling sails to Crete to slay the Minotaur, waves her lance astride a horse. In the essay ‘The Death of a Monster’, Niki Loizidi provides yet another possible narrative: ‘The presence of a spear leads us directly to the conclusion that the flower-wreathed woman is, as well as being a symbol of classical beauty, a female picador one of the protagonists of the Spanish corrida. In other words, the figure of the young girl combines the beauty of Aphrodite with the strength of an ancient Amazon and also the role in the Spanish bullfight of the picador, who aggressively torments the bull, ultimately delivering the coup de grâce’ (N. Loizidi, ‘The Death of a Monster, or Classicism as Modernism’s path to Self-Knowledge’, in Picasso and Greece (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 61).\nDated 9 Mai XXXVI (lower right); dated 9 Mai XXXVI on the reverse
GB
GB
GB

medium

Gouache, pen and ink and pencil on paper

creator

Pablo Picasso

condition

Executed on thick cream wove paper, hinged to the mount at the upper corners. There are some old hinges affixed to the reverse. There are artist's pin-holes in the upper corners and the work is numbered 150 in the upper left corner. Apart from a slight deformation of the upper edge, this work is in very good condition.Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the pink and cream tones are more pronounced in the original. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

50.2 by 65.2cm.

exhibition

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso. A Retrospective, 1980, illustrated in the catalogueVenice, Centro di Cultura di Palazzo Grassi, Picasso, Opere dal 1895 al 1971 dalla Collezione Marina Picasso, 1981, no. 228, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Il Minotauro trafitto) Munich, Haus der Kunst; Cologne, Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle; Frankfurt, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut & Zurich, Kunsthaus, Pablo Picasso, Sammlung Marina Picasso, 1981-82, no. 187, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art & Kyoto, Municipal Museum, Picasso, Masterpieces from Marina Picasso Collection and Museums in U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., 1983, no. 148, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Minotaur and Women) Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria & Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Picasso, 1984, no. 113, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Tübingen, Kunsthalle & Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Picasso: Pastelle, Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, 1986, no. 162, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Tokyo, Seibu Art Forum & Ohtsu, Seibu Hall, Pablo Picasso: Collection Marina Picasso, 1990-91, no. 19, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Minotaur and Women) New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Tauromaquia, Works by Pablo Picasso, Photographs by L. Clergue, 1991 Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Forma. El ideal clásico en el arte moderno, 2001-02, no. 62, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, La Révolution Surréaliste, 2002, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Vienna, Albertina, Goya bis Picasso. Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2005, no. 154, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Munich, Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 189, illustrated in colour in the catalogue Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Surrealism in Paris, 2011-12, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

literature

Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, œuvres de 1932 à 1937, Paris, 1957, vol. 8, no. 286, illustrated pl. 136The Picasso Project (ed.), Picasso's Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Sculpture. Surrealism, 1930-1936, San Francisco, 1997, no. 36-060, illustrated p. 287 Brigitte Léal, Christine Piot & Maris-Laure Bernadac, The Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, no. 745, illustrated in colour p. 303 Picasso and Greece (exhibition catalogue), Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, Museum of Contemporary Art, Andros, 2004, illustrated p. 61 (titled Minotaur Pierced by a Sword) Josep Palau i Fabre, Picasso. From the Minotaure to Guernica (1927-1939), Barcelona, 2011, no. 800, illustrated in colour p. 252 (titled Dying Minotaur (Composition))

provenance

Estate of the artist (inv. 3871)Marina Picasso (the artist's granddaughter; by descent from the above) Acquired from the above by the late owner

signedDate

Dated 9 Mai XXXVI (lower right); dated 9 Mai XXXVI on the reverse

time_period

Executed on 9th May 1936.

consignmentDesignation

From Goya to Picasso: Works from the Private Collection of Jan Krugier

creator_nationality_dates

1881 - 1973


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


Advert
Advert

Sold items

Suprematist Composition
Sold

Suprematist Composition

Realized Price
60,002,500 USD

Composition avec bleu, rouge, jaune et noir
Sold
Composition with Red, Blue and Grey
Sold

Composition with Red, Blue and Grey

Realized Price
25,464,188 USD

Les Glaçons, Bennecourt
Sold

Les Glaçons, Bennecourt

Realized Price
23,372,500 USD

Femme dans la nuit
Sold

Femme dans la nuit

Realized Price
22,590,000 USD

Suprematist Composition with Plane in Projection
Sold
Composition avec grille 2
Sold

Composition avec grille 2

Realized Price
18,433,280 USD

Composition with red, yellow and blue
Sold

Composition with red, yellow and blue

Realized Price
14,085,080 USD