Pablo Picasso 1881-1973
N05915 Buste de Femme (Head and Shoulders of a Woman) 1909
Inscribed 'Picasso' b.r.
Oil on canvas, 28 5/8 x 23 5/8 (73 x 60)
Purchased from Eardley Knollys (Knapping Fund and Grant-in-Aid) 1949
Prov: Paul Guillaume, Paris (in his private collection); Mme Paul Guillaume (later Mme Jean Walter), Paris; Eardley Knollys, Wimborne
Exh: Picasso, Tate Gallery, July-September 1960 (47, repr.)
Lit: Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso (Paris 1942), Vol.2a, No.143, repr. pl.73; Pierre Daix and Joan Rosselet, Picasso: The Cubist Years 1907-1916 (London 1979), No. 245, p.236 and repr.
This is one of Picasso's proto-Cubist works which retain the sculptural character of his Negro period (cf. Congo wood sculpture), but lead on to analytical Cubism in the breaking up and faceting of the forms. William Fagg writes (letter of 17 August 1976) that it looks very much as if it were derived from one or more African pieces, but as usual with works by artists of the School of Paris its source is not easily recognisable. 'There was a fine Fang mask with whitened face which used to hang in Braque's studio (see Les arts primitifs dans les ateliers d'artistes, Musée de l'Homme) and may have played some part; on the other hand it does seem to suggest a fairly large Bakuba mask.' According to Zervos it was painted in Paris in the summer of 1909, but a dating in the spring seems more likely. It must in any case have been executed before Picasso's departure for Horta de Ebro, where he spent four months in the summer of that year.
The photograph reproduced by Zervos appears to show the picture without a signature, which must have been added some time later.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.594, reproduced p.594