Pablo Picasso

Goat’s Skull, Bottle and Candle


Not on display

Pablo Picasso 1881–1973
Original title
Crâne de chèvre, bouteille et bougie
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 894 × 1162 × 20 mm
frame: 1081 × 1346 × 95 mm
Purchased 1957

Display caption

After the suffering of the Second World War, Picasso made a number of monochromatic works concerned with atrocities in the Korean War. He also painted four versions of this still-life subject, whose inspiration appears to have been the execution of the Communist partisan Nikos Beloyannis by the Greek government. The grey tones establish the sombre mood, while the candle and skull are traditional reminders of death. His willingness to take a moral stand reinforced Picasso's status as the most influential artist of his generation.

Gallery label, November 2005

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Catalogue entry

Pablo Picasso 1881-1973

T00145 Cr?ne de Ch?vre, Bouteille et Bougie (Goat's Skull, Bottle and Candle) 1952

Inscribed 'Picasso' b.r. and '16.4.52' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 35 1/8 x 45 3/4 (89 x 116)
Purchased from the Galerie Louise Leiris (Grant-in-Aid) 1957
Prov: With Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (purchased from the artist)
Exh: Pablo Picasso, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome, May-July 1953 (50, repr.); Palazzo Reale, Milan, September-November 1953 (165, repr.); Picasso: Peintures 1900-1955, Mus?e des Arts D?coratifs, Paris, June-October 1955 (121, repr.); Picasso 1900-1955, Haus der Kunst, Munich, October-December 1955 (112, repr.); Rheinisches Museum, Cologne, December 1955-February 1956 (112, repr.); Kunsthalle, Hamburg, March-April 1956 (112, repr.); Picasso, Tate Gallery, July-September 1960 (189, repr.); Hommage ? Pablo Picasso, Grand Palais, Paris, November 1966-February 1967 (224, repr.); Picasso, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, March-May 1967 (111, repr.)
Lit: Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso (Paris 1965), Vol.15, No.198, repr. pl.118; Pierre Dufour, Picasso 1950-1968 (Geneva 1969), pp.29-33, repr. p.31 in colour
Repr: Burlington Magazine, XCV, 1953, p.330

The goat theme occupied an important place in Picasso's work in the early 1950s. There is a large painting of 1950 representing a goat and also a big sculpture of the same year.

The theme of a still life with a bottle, a lighted candle and a goat's skull first appeared in 1951 in a painted bronze sculpture cast from an assemblage of bicycle handlebars, nails, metal, and ceramic. There are three other paintings of the same theme (Zervos, op. cit., Nos.199-201), which are all dated on the back 21 March 1952, over three weeks earlier than the date on this work. The Tate's version, which is the most abstracted and the most complex, was therefore the last of the series and can be regarded as its culmination. The sculpture is painted black, grey and white; this work is in blue-greys, black and white, while the other paintings are grey, brown and white (No.199), white, grey and black (No.200) and brown, grey and white (No.201). All the paintings were done in Paris, at 9 Rue Gay-Lussac, 5e.

The signature on the present work was added in 1954.

(The information about the other paintings was kindly provided by the artist's son, Claude Picasso).

Published in:
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, pp.607-8, reproduced p.607

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