A Picasso Portrait Could Rake in $55 Million at Christie’s Next Month, Suggesting a Surge in the Art Market’s Confidence

The work, depicting Marie-Thérèse Walter, was painted in 1932, Picasso's so-called "year of wonders."

Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) (1932). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

A monumental Pablo Picasso portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, his muse and lover, could fetch up to $55 million at Christie’s in its 20th-century evening sale in New York on May 11.

The painting, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse), 30 October 1932 (1932), is a fractured painting of the young woman—who was only 17 when she met the 45-year-old Picasso in 1927—wearing bright red and green, her limbs painted a soft lilac hue, sitting by a window. Her outsize head accentuates her Grecian profile, with a splash of golden yellow indicating blonde hair.

Part of the work’s appeal is its date: painted in Picasso’s Château de Boisgeloup in Normandy in October 1932, it is one of a series of portraits of Marie-Thérèse that was last on view to the public at the 2017–18 exhibition “Picasso, 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy” at Tate Modern and the Musée Picasso in Paris.

During 1932—Picasso’s so-called “year of wonders”—the artist created more than 100 works, many of them depicting Marie-Thérèse, almost always nude or partially dressed, asleep or in repose.

“As one of the most groundbreaking and influential artists of the 20th century, it is only fitting that this exceptional painting will lead the inaugural newly formatted 20th-century art evening sale at Christie’s,” Vanessa Fusco, the co-head of th auction house’s 20th-century department, said in a statement.

What is notable is that such a prized work is coming to auction as the market continues to settle after the turbulence of 2020. The overall trade dipped by about 25 percent last year, and the hardest-hit sector was Impressionist and Modern art, where sales of works valued above $10 million shrank by 41 percent, according to Artnet News’s Spring Intelligence Report.

With an estimate in the range of $55 million and a third-party guarantee, this canvas could beat out any Picasso work brought to market in 2020. Coupled with Sotheby’s recent announcement of a Basquiat painting that could fetch up to $50 million, it could be a sign of confidence returning to the trade.

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