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Picasso’s hidden mistress set to fetch millions at sale

A Pablo Picasso painting depicting his muse Marie-Therese Walter with future lover Dora Maar emerging from the shadows behind is expected to fetch an eye-watering sum at a London sale next week.

Picasso's hidden mistress set to fetch millions at sale
Photo: AFP

The 1937 “Femme au Beret et a la Robe Quadrillee (Marie-Therese Walter)” is expected to reach $50 million (€40 million) at a sale of Impressionist, Surrealist and Modern Art at prestigious London auction house Sotheby's on Wednesday.

The identity of its current owner remains a mystery.   

“It's an incredibly important museum quality picture,” James Mackie, director of the Impressionist and Modern Art department at Sotheby's, told AFP on Thursday.

“It comes from a key era in Picasso's career, 1937, when he makes the great painting 'Guernica',” he added, referring to the masterpiece which portrayed the horrors of the Nazi bombardment of a Basque city during the Spanish civil war.

READ ALSO: 80 years on, Picasso's powerful anti.war Guernica still resonates

The painting also has a strong autobiographical appeal, said Mackie.   

The main subject of the piece, Marie-Therese Walter, was the Spanish painter's “long time lover and muse”.   

But the looming figure of Dora Maar, whom he met in 1936, emerges in the shadows behind Marie-Therese, explained Mackie.    

Several masterpieces have reached astronomical prices at recent auctions, fuelled by the opening of major museums in the Gulf and the purchasing power of collectors from emerging countries.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, acquired Leonardo da Vinci work “Salvator Mundi” for $450 million in November 2017.    

“The market for masterpieces is at an unprecedented levels, and this picture certainly sits very much in that masterpiece category,” said Mackie.    

Three other Picasso works will be auctioned, including “El Matador”, valued at between £14 and £18 million ($20-$25 million, 16-20 million euros).    

Two Salvador Dali paintings are also up for sale.    


Salvador Dali's, Maison pour Erotomane. Photo: Sotheby's

The two small oil works, “Gradiva” (1931) and “Maison pour Erotomane” (circa 1932), have been in a private collection in Argentina, having been bought directly from the artist by an Argentinean countess.

“They are a rediscovery, which is incredibly exciting,” Mackie said of the two works.

READ MORE: Two rediscovered Dali paintings up for sale for the first time

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ART

Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.

mata-mua_gauguin-madrid

In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.

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