That $106.5 Million Picasso? Even the Pizza Deliveryman Knows What It Is

Picasso's record-breaking $106.5 million 1932 portrait of Marie-Therese Walter: Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust. Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

In May 2004, at the start of the art market’s phenomenal boom and before the most recent mini-bust, I wrote an article for ARTnews in which I attempted to analyze why certain artworks attract outrageous sums at auction. A good section of the article was dedicated to Picasso’s 1932 portraits of Marie-Therese. Here is some of what I wrote:

Among the most popular images to appear at auction are Picasso’s 1932 paintings of his young lover and muse Marie-Therese Walter, which have fetched prices of between $48.4 million and around $1 million in the past decade. “The year of 1932 and Marie-Therese,” says Sotheby’s David Norman, “is one of the most sought after years of Picasso.” The artist disguised Marie-Therese in paintings during the first four years of their affair, which ran from 1927 through the late 1930s. In December 1931, he painted his first fully recognizable portrait of her, and in the following year, he painted dozens more of her, often asleep in an armchair. The works of 1932 tend to be “robust in scale,” says Michael Findlay, a director of New York’s Acquavella Galleries and Christie’s former international director of fine arts. “They appeal to collectors who like recognizable paintings–even the pizza deliveryman knows what it is. There is no doubt that it is a big, beautiful Picasso.”

You can read the rest of my article here.

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