Autoportrait Trois Formes: Peintre couronné, Sculpteur en Buste et Minotaure amoureux
Autoportrait Trois Formes: Peintre couronné, Sculpteur en Buste et Minotaure amoureux (Bloch 191)

1933 (May 18, Paris)

Etching printed on Montval laid paper with Montgolfier watermark
From the Suite Vollard (S.V. 84), edition of 50
Signed by the artist in pencil, lower right
Inscribed "354" in pencil, lower left margin; "191, 19703, 354" and other notations in pencil, verso upper left
Printed by Lacourière, 1939
Published by Vollard, 1939
Image: 11 5/8 x 14 3/8 inches
Sheet: 15 1/4 x 19 3/4 inches
Framed: 25 7/8 x 28 3/4 inches
(Bloch 191) (Baer 350.B.c)

In this etching, the Minotaur abruptly breaks away from his well-mannered composure in the prior plate to a scene of open sexuality. The beast and his lover (who resembles Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s young mistress) are engaged in a dramatic pose: he grasps her with vampiric possession and her splayed limbs suggest a struggle. In a visual oxymoron, a nearby flutist and maiden regard the scene with mild pleasure, as if they are witnesses to a play or performance. This pair is familiar from Jeune Bacchus au Tambourin avec une Bacchante (Bloch 212) and Flûtiste et Jeune Fille au Tambourin (Bloch 213) of the Suite, in which they are featured on their own. In front of them is a table of refreshments including a platter of oysters, which have long been thought to have aphrodisiacal properties.


Above the center of drama looms an oversized sculpted head—a portrait of the sculptor who has been replaced by the Minotaur. He stares passively, but the size and placement indicate that his presence is still powerful and perhaps dominant. This head appears in a number of other plates of the Suite Vollard and seems to function as an alter-ego for the artist, as does the Minotaur. As such, this plate presents a rare example of Picasso showing both sides of his personality in one image, reminiscent of the classic tale of Jekyll and Hyde. Such a depiction may have also been inspired by Freud’s theory of the id, ego, and super-ego. The nascent science of psychoanalysis was highly influential for the Surrealists and though Picasso generally did not associate himself with the movement, he was surely familiar with its basic tenets.


The second sculpted head has been understood in the past to represent the artist as well, as is clear in the interpretive title assigned to the print by catalogue raisonné author Brigitte Baer which translates to Self-Portrait in Three Forms: Crowned Painter, Bust of the Sculptor, and Amorous Minotaur. However, Museum of Modern Art curator Deborah Wye notes that it may have been intended to represent Marie- Thérèse.i If so, perhaps Picasso is showing both himself and his lover in their various guises.


The current impression is one of fifty deluxe impressions with large margins printed on Montval laid paper watermarked “Papeterie Montgolfier à Montval,” outside of the edition of 260 (there was also 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.



i A Picasso Portfolio: Prints from the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010, 49.