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Jeune Sculpteur grec avec sa Sculpture: un Homme et un Éphèbe (Bloch 161)

1933 (March 27.I, Paris)

Etching printed on Montval laid paper with Vollard watermark
From the Suite Vollard (S.V. 52), edition of 260
Inscribed "313/161" in pencil, lower left margin   
Printed by Lacourière, 1939
Published by Vollard, 1939
Image: 10 1/2 x 7 1/4 inches
Sheet: 17 3/4 x 13 3/8 inches
Framed: 21 5/8 x 18 1/4 inches
(Bloch 161) (Baer 313.B.d)
 

This image is unique in the Suite Vollard in that there are no females, nor sculptures of them, present. Because some of the players in this etching lie outside of the standard players who appear in the majority of the plates in the Suite Vollard, it is helpful to look at other examples of Picasso’s work for clues regarding the artist’s intention behind the image. Here, the bearded sculptor who is in the majority of the images has been transformed to a sculpture himself, looking out at the viewer. In his place is a young man who thoughtfully works on his creation. His classical profile resembles that of the young sailor who stands on the sidelines in the “Blind Minotaur” plates of the suite (Bloch 222, 223, 224 and 225). Though the symbolism of these later plates has been interpreted in a number of ways, this young marine has often been understood to represent Picasso’s younger self. In the same manner, the young sculptor here likely represents Picasso as a younger artist.

 

The sculptural group in this etching displays the jumbled limbs and disregard for gravity that Picasso employed in his plates for Ovid’s Les Métamorphoses, a project he completed in 1931. The youth at front (the ephebe), takes a particularly unlikely stance. The elder figure places a hand around him as if to guide and support him. A few plates from Les Métamorphoses also show groupings of young men with elders, and the theme of such images is generally that of apprenticeship. The central figure’s steadying presence seems to imply mentorship.

 

Putting all of these ideas together, it is likely that this image represents the spectrum of Picasso’s development as an artist, looking into the future from his youth. The sculpture represents the path he would take and the young sculptor who works on the figures is the talented youth that would be transformed to one of the greatest artists of all time.
The current impression is from the edition of 260 printed on Montval laid paper with a "Vollard" watermark. 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.