Sotheby’s Just Auctioned a Portrait of Pablo Picasso’s ‘Golden Muse’ for Millions

June 19, 2018, 9:58 PM UTC
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 14: Art handlers hang 'Buste de femme de profil' by Pablo Picasso (estimated at £33 million) during a preview of the Impressionist and Modern sale at Sotheby's on June 14, 2018 in London, England. The sale will take place on 19 June 2018 and includes works by artists Picasso, Monet, Kandinsky and Matisse. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images for Sotheby's)
Chris J Ratcliffe—Getty Images for Sotheby's

A 1932 portrait of Pablo Picasso’s “golden muse,” Marie-Thérèse Walter, sold today. Auctioned by Sotheby’s, Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) fetched just over $36 million.

The portrait, one of many the Spanish artist painted of his longtime lover, depicts Walter alone in a private moment. Picasso and Walter met in Paris in 1927 when Walter was just 17 years old, and while Picasso was married to another of his former muses, Olga Khokhlova. Reportedly, he took Walter by the arm and announced, “You and I are going to do great things together!” For years, their relationship remained a secret, even as Walter appeared in a number of his works from the 1930s, including sculptures and the painting Girl Before a Mirror, also from 1932.

Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant) had been in a private collection since 1965. In 1997, Sotheby’s New York sold the piece on behalf of Evelyn Sharp, the late philanthropist and hotelier, to an unnamed private buyer.

In 1932, Picasso finally publicly proclaimed his love for Walter, which led him to paint her even more than before. In fact, Picasso’s Cubist depictions of Walter from that decade—and especially that year—are so important to understanding his oeuvre that an entire exhibition, The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame Tragedy, currently occupies several rooms at the Tate Modern in London. The retrospective is on now through September 9, 2018.

Picasso painting auctions have set world records in the past, including the $140 million sale of Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) in 2015.