Buste de Femme à la queue de cheval: Jacqueline
Buste de Femme à la queue de cheval: Jacqueline (Bloch 771)

1955 (March 19, Paris)

Aquatint printed on Arches wove with Arches watermark 
From the edition of 50
Signed by artist in pencil, lower right
Numbered 38/50 in pencil, lower left
Printed by Lacourière, 1955
Published by Galerie Louise Leiris, 1955
Image: 25 3/8 x 19 3/8 inches
Sheet: 29 7/8 x 21 1/8 inches
Framed: 37 x 30 1/8 inches (silver)
(Bloch 771) (Baer 927.B.a)

This early aquatint portrait of Picasso’s last great love, Jacqueline Roque (1927-86), is one of the seven major works on copper that he made in 1955, of which only three were editioned. The date—19 March 1955—in the upper right corner of the page is a drypoint addition. The image was printed by Roger Lacourière in his Paris workshop in a numbered edition of fifty plus fifteen additional artist’s proofs on Arches wove paper with the Arches watermark. This impression is numbered 38/50 at the lower left, in pencil, and signed by the artist in pencil at the lower right. It was published by Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, in the same year.

 

When Picasso met Jacqueline in summer 1952, he was living in Vallauris with the young artist Françoise Gilot (born 1921), who had borne him two children—Claude and Paloma—in 1947 and 1949. Their relationship however had been deteriorating for some time and, after a period of mutual infidelity, Françoise left Picasso in September 1953, taking the children with her. At this time, Jacqueline was living with her young daughter Cathy in a villa called Le Ziquet in Golfe-Juan, having left her husband—a colonial official in the outpost of Ouagadougou in Central Africa—some months before. Now installed as a salesgirl at the Madoura pottery workshop where Picasso was working on ceramics, she fell passionately in love with the artist forty-five years her senior and, following the departure of Françoise, Picasso became increasingly interested in her. She first figures in several drawings of the painter and his model that he made in January 1954 and by September of that year had moved into his rue des Grands-Augustins studio in Paris. Her large, brilliant dark eyes, so similar to the artist’s, are emphasized in several painted portraits that he made during 1954; her long, straight nose and famously submissive behavior bear an uncanny likeness to both the features and the pose of the odalisque portrayed in Eugène Delacroix’s Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (1834, Louvre Museum, Paris). Picasso embarked a series of canvases and prints based on this painting at the end of the year. Completed in February 1955, the series was accompanied and closely followed by variations on the theme of the artist and his model and girls in a brothel, many featuring Jacqueline’s exotic profile.

 

By contrast with all these images, which emphasize the drama of looking and the theatre of the erotic somewhat satirically, Buste de Femme a la queue de cheval: Jacqueline has a more meditative and intimate mood. Although the subject has clearly disrobed to pose for the artist—as is suggested by the decorative column on which she leans, and the jewelry ornamenting her right hand and wrist, her girlish ponytail evokes a youthful frankness and vulnerability that is slightly at odds with her heavy-lidded eyes, finely arched brows, dark lips and full, mature breasts. Rather than looking directly at the artist and viewer with Gilot’s wide-eyed hypnotic and confrontational stare, she gazes modestly downwards, a half-smile playing over her lips, suggesting secret thoughts. With his usual virtuoso skill, Picasso drew Jacqueline’s elegant profile with a single line using the neo-classical style that he had developed during his training as an illustrator in the early years of the twentieth century and refined, following his years of Cubist experimentation, after the First World War. Fusing the graphic technique of reducing an image to bold and simple line with the expressionism he had adapted through his interest in primitivism, Picasso has blended naturalism and stylization seamlessly, emphasizing his subject’s beauty and sensuality, despite the truncated foreshortening of her bent right arm. A few weeks after creating this image, Picasso bought La Californie, a villa in the hills above Cannes, where he and Jacqueline lived together until he died in 1973. Becoming his second wife in 1961, Jacqueline features in innumerable painting and prints created during the course of their nineteen years together, representing a significant period in his oeuvre.