Sotheby’s in New York achieved a remarkable sale on Wednesday night, as Pablo Picasso’s renowned masterpiece, “Woman with a Watch,” fetched an impressive $139.3 million at auction. This amount stands as the second-highest price ever realized for the iconic artist.
Painted in 1932, the masterpiece portrays one of Picasso’s muses and companions, the French painter Marie-Therese Walter. Sotheby’s had valued the artwork at over $120 million before it went under the hammer. The sale was part of a special auction featuring pieces from the collection of Emily Fisher Landau, a prominent New York patron of the arts who passed away this year at the age of 102.
Julian Dawes, Sotheby’s head of impressionist and modern art, hailed Picasso’s canvas as “a masterpiece by every measure.” He described the 1932 painting, created during Picasso’s remarkable “annus mirabilis,” as exuding joyful and passionate abandon while maintaining a meticulous and resolved quality.
Marie-Therese Walter, often considered Picasso’s “golden muse,” is featured in another work, “Femme endormie” (“Sleeping Woman”), scheduled for auction at Christie’s on Thursday with an estimated value of $25-$35 million.
Walter and Picasso’s relationship began in 1927 when they met in Paris, a period during which Picasso was still married to Russian-Ukrainian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova, and Walter was 17. Another piece, “Femme assise pres d’une fenetre (Marie-Therese),” featuring Walter, was sold in 2021 for $103.4 million by Christie’s.
Despite Picasso’s enduring influence as an artistic genius, allegations of a violent hold over the women who influenced his art have tarnished his reputation in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Sotheby’s aims to achieve approximately $400 million in sales from Landau’s collection, which includes works by other notable artists such as Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol.