It is estimated that Picasso's joyous and tender portrait of Maya, born in secrecy to his greatest love, will fetch $15-20 million at auction
For the First Time in Almost a Quarter of a Century, Gianni Versace's Painting Returns to the Market According to Rich Report, this is the first painting of Maya by Picasso to be sold at auction since 1999.
Picasso's oeuvre has always been centered on the women in his life. Picasso's daughter Maya was born in secrecy while Picasso was married to his first wife, the former ballerina Olga Khokhlova, on September 5, 1935. She was named after Picasso's late sister Mara de la Concepción. A great source of happiness for Picasso, Maya Walter was the daughter of his greatest love, Marie-Thérèse Walter. As a result of her timely birth, Picasso went through what he later called "the worst period of his life". The artist's divorce battle with Olga and the loss of his beloved Château de Boisgeloup, combined with the worsening political situation in Europe and the growing sense that war was inevitable, conspired to overwhelm him, who had been unable to paint for nearly a year.
In the fourteen portraits Picasso painted of Maya between January 1938 and November 1939, his joy as a father finds poignant expression in his joy as an artist. For the first time in over 20 years, one of the artist's most playful and bold portraits of his daughter will be auctioned. It is estimated that Fillette au bateau (Maya) will sell for $15-20 million at Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction in London on 1 March 2023 (in the range of £12-18 million). After Picasso's death in 1973, the painting was owned by Gianni Versace before it was auctioned by Sotheby's in London in 1999 as part of the late fashion designer's collection of 25 works by Picasso. Maya Ruiz-Picasso passed away at the age of 87 on December 20, 2022, when this painting reappeared on the market. The work will be on display at Sotheby's Hong Kong (5-7 February), New York (11-15 February) and London (22 February-1 March).
In 1938, when Maya was two-and-a-half years old, Picasso painted her exuberant and energetic portrait, shortly after completing the monumental and harrowing Guernica. Maya is depicted at eye level by Picasso, whose pictures of this era are characterized by Cubistic distortion of her face, capturing her fidgety nature. There is a striking resemblance between Maya's features and those of her mother, Marie-Thérèse, in Picasso's series of portraits of Maya.
The artist was known for his reverence for childhood, and he sought to capture the spirit and freedom that often eluded adult creativity. Taking pictures of his children was an extension of that cherished playtime he spent with them. His daughter loved singing songs to him and dancing with him. He also painted doll's houses from matchboxes, made puppet theatres from paper, and made fabric figures with chickpea heads.
She was Picasso's eldest daughter and second child, following the birth of Paulo in 1921 (born to Olga Khokhlova), and prior to the birth of Claude in 1947 and Paloma in 1949 (born to Françoise Gilot).
Young María – whose parents chose to call her Maya instead as she could not pronounce her name – was a constant presence in the artist's studio – she would carelessly pat her hands on the large canvas of Guernica while her father worked, recognizing the distinguishable profile of her mother in the faces of the anguished victims of the massacre.
Maya's final portrait was painted by Picasso in 1953, just before she turned eighteen. After her father's death, Maya would devote her adult life to preserving Picasso's legacy – and, in turn, her daughter Diana Widmaier Picasso recently turned the spotlight on her grandfather's relationship with her mother as a small child, as displayed at a highly regarded exhibition at the Musée de Picasso in Paris – which brought together this painting with other portraits from the same series for the first time.