Sculpteur et Modèle se regardant dans un Miroir calé sur un Autoportrait sculpté
Sculpteur et Modèle se regardant dans un Miroir calé sur un Autoportrait sculpté (Bloch 178)

1933 (April 8, Paris)

Etching printed on Montval laid paper with Vollard watermark
From the Suite Vollard (S.V. 69), editon of 260
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right
Inscribed "BL 178" in pencil, lower left margin
Printed by Lacourière, 1939
Published by Vollard, 1939
Image: 14 1/2 x 11 3/4 inches
Sheet: 17 3/4 x 13 3/8 inches
Framed: 28 x 23 3/4 inches
(Bloch 178) (Baer 331.B.d)

This etching is very closely related Sculpteur songeant, modèle aux cheveux noirs et bol avec Trois Anémones (Bloch 177). The etchings were created on subsequent days (April 7 and 8, 1933) and both depict the sculptor examining his model: the two figures are in similar positions in each scene, with a mountainous landscape in the picture window behind them. However, the two etchings differ in tone, setting, and the treatment of the model.  In contrast to Bloch 177, which is more physical in nature, this image is best described as a complex cerebral puzzle—a meditation on the nature of Picasso’s relationship with his model and, therefore, on the more universal aspects of this time-tested arrangement.


The various elements at play have attracted much speculation over time. The woman depicted is clearly Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s lover at the time. Likewise, the bearded sculptor in the Suite Vollard has long been understood as an avatar for the artist. He watches the beautiful young woman, adorned with a garland of flowers, as she preens herself in front of a mirror that is propped up against a sculpted head of the artist (which also appears in a number of other plates of the Suite Vollard). Each of these contributes to the ideas expressed in the etching.


Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this plate is the fact that the model is heavily shaded and more detailed than the rest of the image. Picasso, thus, calls to our attention that her likeness is in fact a work of art, highlighting the handwork and labor that are involved in the process. Likewise, our eye is drawn to this area of the composition—the focus is on the model, who is posing and admiring herself in the mirror. The artist himself seems to be somewhat amused and bored by her activities, but his alter-ego as presented in the sculpted head below (concealed behind the mirror) appears to be alarmed, or at least bothered.


Marie-Thérèse is known to have little understanding of Picasso’s art, and often complained that she could not see a likeness in his portraits of her. She is represented in this plate perhaps as she would have preferred—pretty, volumetric, naturalistic. Therefore, it is possible to interpret this image as a representation of the dichotomy between Marie-Thérèse’s simple personality and her role as an inspiration for Picasso’s work. The sculpted head behind the mirror reveals Picasso’s hidden feelings on the matter (his artist identity), while the living man at right (as lover) tolerates the situation with a touch of amusement.


The current impression is from the edition of 260 printed on Montval laid paper watermarked “Vollard” and “Picasso”. (There was also an edition of fifty with wide margins and a separate watermark, and a small edition of three.) It was printed by Roger Lacourière in late 1938 or early 1939. The untimely death of Ambroise Vollard in the summer of 1939 delayed their commerce until 1948 when the prints were acquired by dealer Henri Petiet through the Vollard estate.