Painting of Picasso’s Muse, Estimated at $55 Million, Will Lead Christie’s New York Auction

Shreeya Maskey
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“Mademoiselle, you have an interesting face. I would like to paint your portrait,” Pablo Picasso reportedly said to Marie-Thérèse Walter, who would later inspire many of his sculptures, canvases, and drawings. Although she did not have the slightest idea about Picasso or his work, Walter was enchanted by his charm. After this first encounter outside Paris’ Galeries Lafayette department store in January of 1927, Walter became Picasso’s muse and secret lover.

Walter appears in some of Picasso’s most important 20th-century artworks, including his large-scale masterpiece, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse). This particular painting of Picasso’s muse will be highlighted in Christie’s upcoming evening auction in New York on May 11th, 2021. It could sell for USD 55 million.

Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse). Image from Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.
Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse). Image from Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.

The artist crafted the piece in his Boisgeloup studio in France in 1932, the same year he started painting Walter. Unlike many portraits from this period that show a nude figure lying or sleeping, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) depicts a woman seated upright in a black chair. Posing by the window, she gazes directly at the viewer with a serious but calm look.

“One of the most striking features of Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) is its monumental scale. At five feet tall, she lives on the canvas. There’s more psychology to her here than in other paintings. There’s a deep sensuality without being in any way degrading,”  Vanessa Fusco, Christie’s co-head of the upcoming 20th Century Sale, told The Art Newspaper.

Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse). Image from Christie’s.
Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse). Image from Christie’s.

The painting crossing the Christie’s auction block was previously exhibited at the Picasso Museum’s “Picasso 1932, année érotique” show in 2017. Later that year, the painting of Picasso’s muse went to the Tate Modern for a show titled “The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932, Love Fame Tragedy.” 

Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse) last appeared in a Sotheby’s London sale in February of 2013. The piece sold for $44.8 million at the evening auction to an anonymous guarantor who won with an irrevocable bid. The price landed well above its estimate of $25 million. When the painting first came to auction at Christie’s New York in 1997, it achieved $6.8 million. 

Collectors interested in the painting of Pablo Picasso’s muse can register to bid online on Christie’s website. 

Several record-setting art pieces came to auction this year. Explore Auction Daily’s coverage of the world’s largest painting.