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Feuille d’Études. Profils de Marie-Thérèse et Tête de Rembrandt au Béret (Bloch 207)

1934 (January 27, Paris)

Etching printed on Montval laid paper with Picasso watermark
From the Suite Vollard (S.V. 33), edition of 260
Inscribed "368 / B207" in pencil, lower left; "368" in pencil, upper right (upside down); "207 / 368 / 19969" in pencil, upper left verso
Printed by Lacouriere, 1939
Published by Vollard, 1939
Image: 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 inches
Sheet: 13 3/8 x 17 1/2 inches
(Bloch 207) (Baer 405.B.d)

Picasso once discussed this particular plate with his long-time dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who recorded the artist’s words in his journal a week later: “Imagine, I made a portrait of Rembrandt. I was another case of the cracking varnish. I had an accident with the plate and said to myself, it’s ruined so I’ll do any old thing on it. I began to scribble and it turned into Rembrandt. I liked it so much I continued. I then even made a second”.i

 

References to Rembrandt’s work are apparent in the image. At center of is the visage of Rembrandt himself, reminiscent of the Dutch artist’s 1638 Self-Portrait in a Velvet Cap with Plume. He is surrounded by studies of Picasso’s mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter in various styles. This kind of loose study composition is very similar to Rembrandt’s plates Studies of the Head of Saskia and Others or Sheet of Studies (with head of the artist), ca. 1632, though of course Picasso has made it his own. As noted by scholar Janie Cohen, the areas of cross-hatching in this plate also suggest Rembrandt’s etching style.ii

 

The image as a whole demonstrates Picasso’s virtuosity as an artist, and is clearly in homage to the great Dutch artist’s etchings. As discussed by MFA, Boston curator of prints Clifford Ackley, it is a “doubly fitting homage to the older artist because it is a perfect example of the kind of seemingly casual, but calculatedly artful, etched sketch plate that Rembrandt did so much to foster”.iii

 

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.