Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in London on 4 February 2014 sets the bar for rare and important works from distinguished sources to be offered at auction this season. Presenting discerning, informed and passionate international collectors with 48 lots spanning almost a century, the sale is led by Femme au costume turc dans un fauteuil, 1955 by Pablo Picasso, which comes to the market for the first time in over 55 years (estimate: £15-20 million).
Femme au costume turc dans un fauteuil, 20 November 1955, is one of a small group of portraits by Pablo Picasso showing Jacqueline Roque in the costume of an ‘odalisque’, a woman of the harem. Having met Jacqueline three years earlier, this painting dates from relatively early in their relationship and is a colourful, sexually charged celebration of Jacqueline, whom Picasso would marry six years later and who would become one of the most important muses of the artist’s life. The theme of the odalisque derived from Picasso’s variations upon Eugène Delacroix’s celebrated masterpiece, Les femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement, now in the Louvre, Paris. Picasso had created his own versions of Les femmes d’Alger from December 1954 until early 1955 in his studio in the rue des Grands Augustins in Paris; returning to the theme with relish later that year. The present painting is one of a series of pictures in which he painted a single woman dressed as an odalisque, taking his cues from Delacroix, from Ingres, from himself and crucially from Henri Matisse who had died the previous year; the connection between this theme and the heady, orientalised world of languorous sexuality of Matisse’s fictive harem scenes is immediately recognisable.