LONDON – Pablo Picasso’s “Homme et femme,” a monumental piece depicting a pair of lovers, was the star on Tuesday at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, commanding a price of £12.46 million ($15.6 million).
Measuring 162 x 129.8 cm. (63 x 51.13 in), the oil and Ripolin on canvas was painted by the Spaniard in a single day in the winter of 1968.
Another piece by Picasso (1881-1973), “Femme et Minotaure,” sold for £1.93 million ($2.42 million) in the event at Christie’s London. The 1937 pastel and pencil on board features a minotaur and three women.
The figure of the woman in “Homme et femme” is thought to represent the artist’s wife, Jacqueline, who was with Picasso for the last two decades of his life and appears in more than 400 of his works.
While the male figure, according to the essay accompanying the auction catalogue, is a “surrogate for the artist himself, this virile, romantic figure was an extension of the swashbuckling mosquetero character that had first emerged in Picasso’s work during the final months of 1966.”
Three decades earlier, in February 1937, a turbulent period in the artist’s life found expression in “Femme et minotaure,” featuring three women and an exemplar of the mythical creature that was a recurrent alter ego for Picasso.
“Eestranged from his wife Olga, he (Picasso) found himself torn between two other women: his vulnerable mistress Marie-Therese Walter and the feisty Surrealist photographer Dora Maar with whom he would embark on an intense love affair,” Christie’s said of “Femme et minotaure.”
“It was a time of critical personal reflection,” for Picasso, said Christie’s head of Impressionist and Modern Art, Keith Gill.
The work remained in Picasso’s private collection until his death, when it passed to his granddaughter, and had been exhibited only twice before the auction in London.
A painting by Yves Tanguy, “L’Extinction des especes II,” brought in the second-highest price of the night, £3.13 million ($3.93 million).
Paul Signac’s “Venise Le Redempteur” sold for £2.29 million ($2.87 million), while “Les hauteurs de Trouville,” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, went for £1.09 million ($1.37 million).