Pablo Picasso Portrait of Dora Maar Could Bring $50 Million at May 3 Sotheby's AUction Sotheby’s May 3, 2006 evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art in New York will feature a stunning portrait by Pablo Picasso – Dora Maar au chat – one of the largest and most important portraits o
and challenged Picasso and her influence on him resulted in some of his most powerful and daring portraits of his 75-year career. Among the best of them are the oils completed during the late 1930s and early 1940s, when Picasso’s art resonated with the drama and emotional upheaval of the era and which Dora came to personify. The luminous Dora Maar au chat was painted in 1941, at the beginning of the Second World War in France and just as the couple’s interlude was reaching its climax.
Dora Maar was one of the most influential figures in Picasso’s life during their relationship and she also became his primary model. By the time he painted the present picture he had incorporated Maar’s image into countless versions of this motif. During the occupation of Paris by the Nazis, and as tension mounted in their relationship, the artist would express his frustration by furiously abstracting her image, often portraying her in tears. While the present portrait might seem a departure from Picasso's more hostile depictions of this model, it may be one of his most brilliant and biting provocations of his Weeping Woman. Picasso once likened Maar’s allure and temperament to that of an “Afghan cat”, and the cat in this picture is laden with significance. In the history of art, the pairing of cats and women was an allusion to feminine wiles and sexual aggression, as exemplified in Manet’s notorious portrait of Olympia. It is also interesting to consider that the artist has paid particular attention to the sharp, talon-like nails on the long fingers of his model. In life Maar’s well-manicured hands were one of her most beautiful and distinctive features, and here they have taken on another, more violent characteristic.
In addition to being a rare, three-quarter length portrait of Maar in an armchair, the present work is also a generous and painterly composition with an extraordinary attention to detail. The artist has spared not one inch of the canvas from his brilliant artistic vision, using an extraordinarily vibrant palette in his rendering of the angles of the chair and the patterning of Maar’s dress. The most embellished and symbolic element of the sitter’s wardrobe in this picture is her hat, Maar’s most famous accessory and signifier of her involvement in the Surrealist movement. Ceremoniously placed atop her head like a crown, it is festooned with colorful plumes and outlined with a band of vibrant red. Larger than life, an impression enhanced by her vibrant body that cannot be confined by the boundaries of the chair, Maar looms in this picture like a pagan goddess seated on her throne.
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