Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Portrait de Dora Maar endormie

14 7/8 x 20 1/8 in. (37.7 x 51 cm.)
Dora Maar, Paris (gift from the artist); Estate sale, Piasa, Paris, 27 October 1998, lot 13.
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale); sale, Sotheby's, London, 22 June 2010, lot 2.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
P. Eluard, A Pablo Picasso, Geneva, 1947, p. 167 (illustrated; titled Portrait de mademoiselle D.M. endormie).
C. Zervos, Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1958, vol. 9, no. 95 (illustrated, pl. 42).
J.P. Crespelle, Picasso and His Women, New York, 1969 (illustrated).
J. Leymarie, Picasso: Métamorphoses et unité, Geneva, 1971, p. 248 (illustrated).
(possibly) P. Cabanne, His Life and Times, New York, 1977, p. 295.
P. Daix, La vie de peintre de Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1977, no. 43 (illustrated, pl. 6; titled Dora endormie).
J. Palau i Fabre, Picasso: From the Minotaur to Guernica, 1927-1939, Barcelona, 2011, p. 295, no. 917 (illustrated).
Munich, Haus der Kunst; Musées de Marseille, Centre de la Vieille Charité and Barcelona, Centre Cultural Tecla Sala L'Hospitalet, Dora Maar, October 2001-July 2002, p. 332, no. 174 (illustrated in color, p. 247).
Paris, Musée Picasso and Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Picasso: Dora Maar, Il faisait tellement noir..., February-October 2006, p. 260, no. 143 (illustrated in color).


Rarely among Picasso's many portraits of Dora Maar has his siren and muse of the late 1930s and early 1940s looked more peaceful than she does in the present Portrait de Dora Maar endormie, drawn on 2 March 1937. The warmly intimate and congenial feelings that Picasso reveals in her portrayal here stand in stark contrast to the brutal deformations he often wrought upon his mistress's features—in Dora’s case she would be forever enshrined as the universal woman of sorrows. Picasso used Dora’s visage as a mirror to reflect the troubled events in the world around him, while recording her psychological distress in the face of his own capricious emotions to which he subjected her during their relationship.
As the photographer Brassaï recalled, "It was... at the [café] Les Deux-Magots that, one day in autumn 1935, [Picasso] met Dora Maar, just as Marie-Thérèse Walter was bearing him a daughter, Maya. On an earlier day, he had already noticed the grave, drawn face of the young woman at a nearby table, the attentive looks in her light-colored eyes, sometimes disturbing in its fixity. When Picasso saw her in the same café in the company of Paul Eluard, who knew her, the poet introduced her to Picasso. Dora Maar had just entered his life" (quoted in, Conversations with Picasso, Chicago, 1999, p. 51). Dora was then twenty-eight. She was born Theodora Markovic, the daughter of a Yugoslav architect, whose family name she shortened to Maar. She had grown up in Argentina, and Picasso was delighted to converse with her in Spanish. She was already an accomplished photographer and was interested in becoming a painter as well.
Brigitte Léal has described Dora as having "the face of an Oriental idol, with its marked iconic character, impenetrable, hard, and unsmiling, and whose haughty beauty is enhanced by makeup and sophisticated finery" (Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 387). Her inscrutable personality and occasionally bizarre behavior intrigued Picasso from the moment they were introduced.
In 1937, Dora increasingly became a regular player in the artist's intricately compartmentalized love life. Picasso separated from his Russian-born wife Olga in 1935 and Picasso now had the luxury of trysting with two mistresses, with the attendant complications of dividing his time between each of them and his art. Since 1927 he had been in love with Marie-Thérèse Walter. Marie-Thérèse became Picasso's nurturing and classically beautiful blonde sun goddess, in her acquiescent way bringing a revived sense of physical joy to the middle-aged artist's love life. Dora quickly became just as essential to the artist's happiness when she arrived on the scene—Picasso welcomed her intelligence, sophisticated sense of style and knowledgeable interest in art—but in contrast to the sunny and athletic Marie-Thérèse, Dora assumed the role of the artist's darkly enigmatic and creative lunar goddess—she figured as his surrealist muse.
In the early 1930s Picasso often depicted Marie-Thérèse peacefully sleeping—her slumbering form represented tranquility for the artist. Marie-Thérèse's face, her figure and her sleep itself prompted some of Picasso's most sensual and highly regarded works and displayed an intimacy between the artist and the model. In Portrait de Dora Maar endormie, Dora has co-opted the languorous pose that belonged to Marie-Thérèse and symbolized her predecessor’s happy coupling with the artist. The tenderness and affection that Picasso felt towards Dora is overwhelming in the present drawing—her beautiful face relaxed and peacefully dreaming while her lover looked in. The work remained in Dora’s personal collection until her estate sale in 1998.

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