A large, richly colored Surrealist work by Pablo
of the artist’s muse and lover
will highlight Christie’s Art of the Surreal sale on March 1 in London, the auction house announced on Thursday.
La fenêtre ouverte, 1929, which has been in the same private collection for 50 years, and has never been sold at auction, is being offered with a wide estimate range between £14 million and £24 million (US$19 million and US$32.7 million). It carries a third-party guarantee.
While Picasso was “not one to toe to any movement,” La fenêtre ouverte, meaning “the open window,” is “from the high point of Picasso’s surrealism period,” says
deputy chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s and head of the Art of the Surreal sale.
The sale, which has been held annually for 21 years, is the capstone of a series of 20th/21st-century sales on March 1 at Christie’s. The first auction will be at its new Shanghai galleries before the sales continue to London for a “20th / 21st Century” evening sale followed by the auction of Surrealist works.
La fenêtre ouverte, which is more than 4 feet by 5 feet in size, represents a time when Picasso’s creativity was blooming, reignited by the excitement and clandestine nature of the early years of his relationship with Marie-Thérèse, Camu says.
The oil-on-canvas, which is “loaded with meaning,” Camu says, depicts two shapes or hieroglyphs that are said to represent the couple. The approach is consistent with that of the Surrealists who often played with metamorphosis, changing what was seen in real life.
In La fenêtre ouverte, a figure in the left foreground of the painting representing Picasso is made up of two feet joined by what appears to be a single leg with an arrow going through it—a symbol that may be sexual or mythological or both.
The image of Marie-Thérèse, meanwhile, is totemic, geometric, just an outlined profile with a single arm extending from what would be a neck.
“At the beginning, it’s so secret, and of course he doesn’t want anybody to guess, to know, so she’s kind of hidden,” Camu says.
Visible in the background are two spires from the church Sainte-Clotilde, which was across from the apartment Picasso had secured on Paris’ Left Bank as a secret hideaway for Marie-Thérèse, according to author
who recently published his fourth volume of Picasso’s life.
A similarly scaled sister work by Picasso titled Painter and Model, 1928, also is rendered in bold colors with symbolic references of the couple, in this case, of Picasso painting Marie-Thérèse. That work is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
La fenêtre ouverte was first bought from the artist by
who sold it in 1961 to
The current consignor, only known as a private European collection, acquired the painting from Galerie Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland, in March 1970. It has been exhibited extensively over the years, the last time in a show titled The Surrealist Picasso, at Fondation Beyeler in Basel in 2005.
The painting will be shown at Christie’s Rockefeller Center galleries in New York from Feb. 4-8 and in Hong Kong from Feb. 15-17, before it returns to London on Feb. 23.