Picasso portrait of his daughter Maya from 1938 sells for £18.1m in Sotherby’s in London

Picasso portrait of his daughter Maya from 1938 sells for £18.1m in Sotherby's in London

Image of Picasso's 'Girl In A Boat'. Credit: Twitter@Sothebys

A Pablo Picasso portrait of his daughter Maya sold for £18.1m at Sotheby’s auction house in London.

A portrait painted in 1938 by the legendary Spanish artist Pablo Picasso sold for £18.1m at Sotheby’s auction house in London yesterday, Wednesday, March 1. ‘Fillette au bateau’, or ‘Girl On The Boat’ depicts his eldest daughter Maya.

The auction house tweeted: “#AuctionUpdate Picasso’s joyful portrait of his daughter sells for £18.1 million, making its first appearance at auction since 1999, when it was sold by Sotheby’s for £3.7m as part of Gianni Versace’s collection of 25 works by Picasso”.

Art experts believed that the iconic painting would sell for between £12m to £18m. It was one of a series of 14 Picasso portraits featuring Maya that he created between January 1938 and November 1939.

As explained by Sotheby’s Maya Ruiz Picasso was the result of the celebrated artist’s affair with the French model Marie-Therese Walter. She was born in secrecy in the French town of Boulogne-Billancourt on September 5, 1935, while Picasso was still married to Olga Khokhlova, the former Russian ballerina.

Picasso once reportedly described Walter as the love of his life and his joy over the birth of Maya was deemed responsible for inspiring him to paint again after almost 12 months. Malaga-born Picasso claimed later that at the time of Maya’s birth he was going through ‘the worst period of his life’.

Speaking before the auction, Samuel Valette, the senior specialist at the Impressionist & Modern Art department at Sotheby’s London, commented: “In his portraits of Maya, Picasso reached for his most joyful, brightly coloured palette, and employed a combination of styles to elevate his daughter to the same level as his paintings of her mother, Marie-Thérèse – the artist’s greatest love, with whom we associate his most romantic pictures”.

At the time of painting, Maya was just two years of age and her father recreated her face with his famous cubic distortions. It is said that he captured her fidgety nature in the work of art. His daughter spent a lot of time in his art studio as a young child according to the auction house.

They pointed out that Picasso would dance with and sing songs to Maya. He often constructed doll’s houses out of empty matchboxes as well as making puppet theatres from paper. He also used chickpeas to create the heads of small fabric figures they added.

The late Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace owned the painting in 1973 at the time of Picassos’ death. In 1999 it was sold by Sotheby’s. Maya passed away last December at the age of 87 and now the portrait reappeared back on the market some 25 years after it was originally sold.


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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com