Le Saltimbanque au Repos
Le Saltimbanque au Repos (Bloch 10)

1905 (Probably Spring/Summer, Paris)
From the Suite des Saltimbanques (Plate X)
Drypoint printed on Arches laid paper with Arches watermark
Signed by artist in pencil, lower right
One of a few impressions printed before steelfacing
Printed by Delâtre, 1905
Image: 4 3/4 x 3 3/8 inches
Sheet: 12 1/4 x 8 3/8 inches
(Bloch 10) (Baer 12.a)

This is the most simple and elegant of Picasso’s Saltimbanques prints and a masterwork of the drypoint technique. Using primarily contour lines of varying thickness and a few areas of minimal shading, Picasso deftly conveys this jolly and corpulent figure, giving him a paradoxical lightness that complements his role as a humorous performer. This rotund jester appears quite frequently in Picasso’s paintings, drawings, and prints from the period, including his major painting Family of Saltimbanques at the National Gallery of Art, “where he seems…to be the father of the troupe.”i Likewise, Picasso often included the box upon which the figure is seated in his Saltimbanques prints and drawings—a prop upon which the acrobats depended for their street performances.

 

The figure’s resemblance to Picasso’s friend the poet Guillaume Apollinaire has been noted by several scholars, though Picasso himself identified the figure as El tio Pepe don José, a saltimbanque performer at the Cirque Médrano, on a drawing from the same period.ii This is likely a case of artistic license on Picasso’s part—at times the jester is both men at once, at others he is only the performer. As E.A. Carmean notes, “this figure reoccurs so frequently that we cannot distinguish between his appearance as an actual performer and his merger with the characters of Picasso’s own saltimbanque world.”iii This melding of characters supports the theory that the Saltimbanques work as a whole is a grand allegory of Picasso’s artistic circle at the time.

 

i Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy, 346.
ii E.A. Carmean, Jr. Picasso: The Saltimbanques. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1980, 41, 50.
iii E.A. Carmean, Jr. Picasso: The Saltimbanques. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1980, 50.