This Epic Picasso Sculpture Could Fetch $30 Million Or More At Auction

The bust immortalizes a muse whose beauty inspired over 60 Picasso portraits—and a seven-year love affair.

(Christie’s)

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is partnering with Christie’s auction house to sell a cast of Pablo Picasso’s Tête de femme (Fernande) for an estimated $30 million.

Picasso’s name transcends his paintings, a testament the larger role artists play shaping society. Born October 1881 in Malága, Spain, most know Picasso as the bold leader who seduced modern art into Cubism’s untraditional beauty.

However, Picasso began as a naturalistic painter, receiving classical training from his father—a professor of fine arts in Galicia. Art historians divide Picasso’s career into periods, starting with the Blue Period in 1901. Proto-cubism doesn’t appear until the artist’s African-Influenced era, dated 1907–1909 and inspired by traditional African masks, ancient Egypt, and Henri Matisse.

The artist first sculpted Tête de femme in clay in 1909. The bust immortalizes Fernande Olivier, a muse whose beauty inspired over 60 Picasso portraits—and a seven-year love affair. Olivier, a French artist and model, even appears in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a pivotal 1907 painting that scandalized the world and catapulted Cubism to the collective consciousness.

The edition of Tête de femme to sell at Christie’s this spring has been cast in bronze, with mesmerizing angles and infinite planes that evoke Olivier’s regal silhouette while catching the light “with a constant evanescence,” Christe’s writes in a provided statement. 

Tête de femme was born from an intense period of creative production that Picasso enjoyed over the summer of 1909,” the auction house adds.

“Together with Fernande, the artist traveled to the rural Catalonian village Horta de Ebro in June… embarking on a period now recognized to be critical in the evolution of his art and Cubism as a whole. Worlds apart from Paris, Horta and its topography played a role in inspiring and informing the development of a new revolutionary formal language.” Translating Cubist ideals into the 3D world proved a critical exploration in Picasso’s practice. 

There are 20 known casts of Tête de femme out there, concentrated in the hands of public institutions like the Musée National Picasso in Paris and The Art Institute of Chicago. The Met owns two—one they received recently from Estee Lauder heir Leonard A. Lauder, and another received from Florene M. Schoenborn over 25 years ago. The Schoenborn example will hit the block this May at Christie’s Rockefeller Center space, a rare opportunity for collectors to add cultural treasure to their collection. 

Picasso might be among the most famous names in art, but his work’s not particularly hard to find. He was extremely prolific. Tête de femme isn’t even an original, yet it’s slated to fetch six times more than a saucy original Man Ray photo Christie’s will also put up for sale this spring. Such is Picasso’s continued cache, as a figure bigger than art itself.

Catch a slice of history on view alongside selected highlights from Christie’s 20th Century / 21st Century Evening Sales in Hong Kong and London before they meet their next caretakers in NYC.

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