Head of a Woman

1909
Pablo Picasso (Spanish (worked in France), 1881–1973)


Place of Creation: Europe, France

Dimensions

41.3 x 24.8 x 26.7 cm (16 1/4 x 9 3/4 x 10 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

1976.821

Medium or Technique

Bronze

On View

Mary Stamas Gallery (Gallery 153)

Collections

Europe

Classifications

Sculpture

Bronze, cast by Vollard. Signature incised on neck “Picasso”. [card 2] Cubist head of a woman. Bronze, one of three or four cast by Vollard. Head and gaze slightly averted towards right. Surface broken up into sharp ridges modeling face


This portrait of Fernande Olivier is generally considered to be the first Cubist sculpture, and is an early cast of the model. The challenge of applying the ideas of Cubism to a three-dimensional object meant that the Head of a Woman is less abstracted than works on paper or canvas. The tension created between the Cubist faceting of planes and the natural form of the head makes this one of Picasso’s most moving portraits. The head tilts downward, the eyes are deeply shadowed, and the lips tightly pursed, conveying a sense of melancholy and pensiveness.

Signed

Incised on left side of neck, "Picasso".

Provenance

1910, cast by Ambroise Vollard (b. 1867 - d. 1939), Paris. Before 1952, Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (stock no. 03895; photo no. 52167) [see note 1]; January, 1952, sold by Galerie Louise Leiris to Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet, Stockholm [see note 2]. Until 1968 (?), Theodor Ahrenberg, Stockholm [see note 3]. June or July, 1969, sold by Gerschmann to O'Hana Gallery, London (stock no. 1507) [see note 4]; 1969, sold by O'Hana Gallery to Jeffrey H. Loria and Co., New York [see note 5]. By 1972, William Beadleston, New York [see note 6]; about 1974/1975, sold by Beadleston to Gilbert Lehrman, Harrisburg, PA and Palm Beach, FL; 1976, gift of Gilbert Lehrman to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 12, 1977)

NOTES:
[1] According to a label on the underside of the sculpture. The Galerie Louise Leiris was founded in 1920 by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler as the Galerie Simon (named after Kahnweiler's partner, André Simon). In 1940 it was turned over to Louise Leiris, Kahnweiler's sister-in-law, and was run under her name.

[2] According to Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (November 28, 1968) in a written statement made on the reverse of a photograph of the sculpture, in the MFA curatorial file.

[3] According to Valerie J. Fletcher, "Process and Technique in Picasso's Head of a Woman (Fernande)," in Picasso: The Cubist Portraits of Fernande Olivier (exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington and Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, 2003-2004), p. 186, n. 44.

[4] According to correspondence from Sue Breakell, Archivist, Tate Gallery (January 12, 2005). The sculpture is authenticated by the O'Hana Gallery, London (July 3, 1969), on the reverse of a photograph in the MFA curatorial file and a label on the underside of the sculpture confirms the stock number.

[5] According to Jeffrey H. Loria (December, 1976), in a written statement made on the reverse of a photograph of the sculpture, in the MFA curatorial file.

[6] He lent it to the exhibition "Pablo Picasso: Important Paintings and Drawings" (M. Knoedler and Co., New York, November 24, 1972 - January 13, 1973), cat. no. 32.

Credit Line

Gift of D. Gilbert Lehrman

Copyright

© 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.