PARIS: A series of 100 etchings by Picasso, which depict his personal and political turmoil in the 1930s, has sold for 1.9 million euros (US$2.2 million) in Paris, auctioneers said.
The Spanish-born artist took seven years to complete the prints called the “Vollard Suite”, which deal with his erotic obsessions and marital strife as well as the gathering storm clouds of war over Europe.
The hammer came down on the prints late Sunday as part of a weekend of sales in the French capital from the collection of art dealer Henri Petiet. Some 622 lots were sold for 3.3 million euros, which the auction house Ader Nordmann called an “enormous success”.
It said the Picasso series was bought by an unnamed American collector.
Civil war erupted in Picasso’s homeland as he was working on the series, leaving his alter ego in the drawings — the minotaur — lost and blind by the end.
Picasso’s technique also developed greatly over the years from his relatively simple early prints of his voluptuous mistress Marie-Therese Walter in the arms of a bearded sculptor, to the darker later pictures where she leads a blind, impotent minotaur by night.
The final three prints are portraits of the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who commissioned the series in 1930, giving Picasso paintings by Renoir and Cezanne in exchange.
With no telephone or online bidding allowed for the Paris sale, “there was an unbelievable atmosphere in the room,” auctioneer David Nordmann said, which led to the “exceptional result”.
Only a handful of galleries have a complete collection of the drawings: the Picasso Museum in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery in Washington and the British Museum, which acquired its set for one million pounds (1.1 million euros) in 2011.
Among the other stellar works in the sale were Renoir’s lithography “Pinning the hat”, which went for 43,000 euros — double its estimation — as did Toulouse-Lautrec’s “The jockey”, which sold for 40,000 euros.