A Pablo Picasso painting from 1932 that depicts his muse Marie-Thérèse Walter will be offered at Christie’s in a 20th century art evening auction in New York on May 11. Titled Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse), the large-scale work is scheduled to go on view in Hong Kong from April 12–14 before coming to its final location at the house’s New York headquarters. It is expected to fetch a price of $55 million.
The news follows Christie’s announcement last month that the house plans to debut two reformatted evening auctions during its 20th/21st century art week in May. One will be devoted to art of the 20th century, the other to art from the 1980s to the present.
Walter is often portrayed as sleeping or dreaming throughout Picassos’ oeuvre. In the present work, however, she is sitting upright in a chair, with her gaze directed at the viewer; she appears to be winged. Picasso made the work in his Boisgeloup studio in France in 1932, the year he began painting Walter.
The painting coming up for auction was last exhibited at Paris’s Picasso Museum showcase “Picasso 1932, année érotique” in 2017, alongside mega-collector Steven Cohen’s 1932 Picasso portrait Le Rêve, which he purchased for $155 million in 2013. The following year, Femme assis went to the Tate Modern in London for an exhibition titled “The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932, Love Fame Tragedy.”
“Our reaction to having seen it was very visceral,” Vanessa Fusco, Christie’s co-head of the 20th century evening sale, told ARTnews. The most striking aspect of the piece, Fusco added, is “the incredible presence of this woman and the agency which he’s given her, which you don’t always see in his depictions of her.”
The seller of the work purchased it at Sotheby’s in 2013 for $45 million with premium, against an estimate of $25 million. Prior to that, it sold at auction in 1997 for $6.8 million, after passing through the hands of modern art dealers Stephen Hahn and Jan Krugier. The latter had acquired it from the artist’s granddaughter Marina Picasso.