Picasso’s Le Matador to make auction debut

Picasso’s Le Matador is coming to auction for the first time in its 48 year history. 

The haunting, late work is a self-portrait. It depicts Picasso as a matador, placing him in the middle of the bullfighting arena. However, rather than brandishing a cape, Picasso holds a paintbrush. 

Picasso Matador

Picasso painted Le Matador aged 89 - image: Sotheby's

Picasso painted the piece in 1970, aged 89, just three years before his death.

Helena Newman, the global co-head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern department, explained to Artnet that this work is about Picasso coming to terms with his impending passing. 

“At the end of his life Picasso is really coming face-to-face with his own mortality,” she said.

“There’s something about the spectacle of the matador appearing in the arena center-stage before a moment of life and death that Picasso clearly wants to associate himself with.”

The work is expected to sell for up to £18m ($25m) when it appears at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in London on February 28.

That comparatively low estimate for a Picasso of this quality reflects the lesser interest for the artist’s later works.

These are exciting times for the world’s leading Picasso collectors. The artist’s Femme au beret et a la robe quadrillee is expected to realise £36m ($50m) when it highlights the same sale. 

The record for a Picasso work is $179.3m, achieved by Les Femmes d'Alger Version O in 2015.

Can’t stretch to a Picasso artwork? How about Picasso’s autograph? They’re considerably more affordable.

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