Pablo Picasso’s 1932 “Femme Assise Près d’une Fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)” (“Woman Sitting Near a Window”), a portrait of his teenage lover and “golden muse” from a critical point in his career, will be offered in Christie’s newly rebranded 20th Century Art Evening Sale in New York on May 11, with an estimate of $55 million.
“1932 was a make-or-break year for Picasso,” said Vanessa Fusco, the co-head of the 20th Century Sale. “He was 50-years-old. He was accomplished, famous… but what comes after critical success? Would this pioneer continue to innovate, or would he just rely on his past, on the reputation he’d built up?”
In the thick of a tumultuous marriage to Olga Khokhlova, Picasso met and began an affair with 17-year-old Marie-Thérèse Walter, who became the inspiration for some of his most sought after sculptures, drawings and canvases. But while many of the paintings from this period depict a nude woman lying in repose, “Femme Assise Près d’une Fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)” shows a figure that is alert and present. “One of the most striking features of (the artwork) is its monumental scale. At five-feet tall, she lives on the canvas,” Fusco said, “there’s more psychology to her here than in other paintings. There’s a deep sensuality without being in any way degrading.”
“Femme Assise Près d’une Fenêtre” last came to auction in February 2013, when it sold for £28.6 million ($44.8 million, including fees) to the third party guarantor at Sotheby’s London. The buyer was the only person that appeared to be bidding on the work, over the phone with Patti Wong, the chairman of Sotheby’s Asia. At its first appearance at auction, at Christie’s New York in 1997, it sold for $7.5 million (including fees). The painting was also recently on public display in Picasso 1932, an exhibition devoted to the artist’s “year of wonders” at the Musée Picasso, Paris, and Tate Modern, London in 2017-2018.
The portrait will now anchor the auction house’s new 20th Century Art Evening Sale, which replaces the Impressionist and Modern Art category and includes works from roughly the 1870s to the 1980s. Fusco said the new format was introduced out of an “organic need to redefine the way auctions were held and to respond to the way collectors are collecting.”