Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
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'[Picasso] identifies above all with the Minotaur, this mythological creature who was half bull and half man, to whom maidens had to be sacrificed. However, Picasso's Minotaur is not always a monster; on the contrary, he is a poignant creature, a victim like himself of misfortune and tragedy - blinded by fate and love for the little girl - Marie-Théragese, of course - who leads him around' (John Richardson, quoted in M. Pressman, 'Q & A: John Richardson on Picasso's "Uncontrollable" Sex Drive', Vanity Fair, 5 April 2011, reproduced online).
Minotaure aveugle conduit par une petite fillette dates from 1934, the pinnacle of Pablo Picasso's involvement with and exploration of the theme of the Minotaur. This lyrical work is a showcase for Picasso's draughtsmanship. This is particularly in evidence in the exquisite rendering of the head of the Minotaur, a figure in the Spanish artist's lexicon that was inextricably linked to his own personality and identity, and also in the girl leading him, holding a bunch of flowers, a beacon of youth, purity and beauty. The flashes of colour add to the overall effect, introducing the lapis blue of the Mediterranean as well as the brown of the bull's head, the red of the girl's clothes and the vibrant green of her flowers. The profile of the girl unmistakeably echoes the features of Picasso's young lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, who since the late 1920s had been his Muse, ushering a new sensuality into his works and resulting in many of the flowing, fluid depictions of female figures that remain among his most celebrated works. This was especially true of the pictures associated with Picasso's haven near Paris, the château of Boisgeloup which he had acquired in part to cater to the tastes and social interests of his first wife, Olga, but which would become associated with Marie-Thérèse in many of the works from the first half of the 1930s.
The character of the Minotaur had gleefully leapt into Picasso's works in the late 1920s, most notably in the cartoon he prepared for a tapestry to be created for his friend and patron Maria Cuttoli where a bull's head sat astride a torso-less pair of running legs; the cartoon is now in the Musée national d'Art moderne, Paris. Gradually, not least in his Vollard Suite set in a mythical world of classicism and chimeras, the Minotaur became an increasingly important central figure for Picasso, echoing both ancient myth in Greece and current culture in his native Spain, where the bullfight was such a source of fascination for him. His interest in bullfighting had been further piqued by his recent trips to Spain, which he visited in 1933 and 1934, following the declaration of the Republic there. Picasso would thence explore the motif of the bull and crucially of the Minotaur increasingly in prints, drawings and a handful of paintings, many of which remain in the Musée Picasso, Paris. This includes a pencil drawing that is clearly related to Minotaure aveugle conduit par une petite fillette and which was signed in Boisgeloup on 22 September 1934; Picasso also created a print of the same subject that day, again showing the girl, holding flowers, leading the stricken monster while fishermen watched on from their boat in the background.
In many of Picasso's earlier images of the Minotaur, he was shown priapic, often carousing, indulging in orgies. This was also the case of his Silenus of 1933, which showed the old man of myth, doubtless another self-conscious and unflattering substitute for Picasso, cavorting along a beach similar to the one in Minotaure aveugle conduit par une petite fillette, on that occasion in the company of voluptuous women, probably invoking his younger lover. These images both echo Picasso's own associations with the outdoors-loving Marie-Thérèse and the seaside. Soon, however, a more solemn and tragic note was struck in these mythological scenes, especially in the form described by John Richardson, the artist's great biographer, as 'the blinded Minotaur - a surrogate for Picasso in some of his finest engravings' (J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years 1917-1932, London, 2007, p. 489). During the mid-1930s, when Picasso's marriage to Olga was causing great problems in part because of his relationship with Marie-Thérèse Walter, he presented the Minotaur increasingly as a hunted and tortured freak of nature, a victim of persecution and pursuit, wounded, gored or blinded by the world around it.
This was in part a response to his own personal situation, as he tried to extricate himself from his marriage to Olga yet found this harder and harder. In Minotaure aveugle conduit par une petite fillette and likewise in the culminatory image on this subject, his celebrated 1935 lithograph Minotauromachie, he would be shown as the creature of legend, blinded but fortunately guided by the peaceful girl; meanwhile, in his parallel images of bullfights, or Tauromachies, he clearly identified with the un-transmuted bull, often shown gored by the picadors, relentlessly brought down and humiliated in a series of ritualised blows. This is clearly the case in the pitiful cry of the bull in his 1934 painting now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in which the creature's head bears a resemblance to that in Minotaure aveugle conduit par une petite fillette. The cry of the Minotaur and the cry of the bull in these pictures from the mid-1930s would later come to be channelled in the animal howl of the horse at the centre of Picasso's Guernica - Minotaure aveugle conduit par une petite fillette clearly shows the evolution of his work as it progressed in that direction. This cross-germination also reveals the contrasts between light and darkness, hope and torment of the period, be it in Picasso's own life, in the increasing tensions in Spain and in the wider state of the world at the time, as Germany turned towards Fascism and Europe stumbled towards War.
In Minotaure aveugle conduit par une petite fillette, the more personal, tragic side of the Minotaur has been brought to the fore as the wounded protagonist is passively being led by a small girl holding flowers, in vivid contrast to the implied violence of his maiming. This girl would reappear in the Minotauromachie of the following year holding aloft a lamp that pierces the darkness that dominates the composition. In Minotaure aveugle conduit par une petite fillette, the girl, whose features recall Picasso's depictions of Marie-Thérèse, is looking back at the Minotaur, whose head is raised in a plaintive cry, while he progresses, blind, relying on her guidance and a stick. In the background is a boat, its mast in the air, vividly recalling the world of the ancient Mediterranean in which the myth of the Minotaur was set. The image clearly struck a chord with Picasso, who explored it in a range of media and variations, usually in the prints he was creating at the time, including those of the celebrated Vollard Suite.
The Minotaur, a potent and untamed mixture of human and bestial nature, was a key concept and symbol both for Picasso and for the Surrealists, hence the popularity of his collaged cover for the first edition of the periodical Minotaure, published by Tériade. For that publication, Picasso created a collage now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which featured as its centrepiece one of his own prints of the Minotaur stalking with a dagger in hand. Despite the popularity of the Minotaur as a subject with André Breton and his fellow Surrealists, Picasso's friend Brassaï pointed out that there was a difference in interpretation and relevance between their Minotaur and the Spanish artist's: while the former felt that the Minotaur encapsulated the Irrational,
'For the painter of Guernica, this ancient symbol, half-man, half-bull, was not far removed from the toro of Spanish bullfights, laden with obscure, volatile forces. Picasso felt these dark forces moving within himself, and he humanised them. His Minotaur personified the "monster" - sardonic, dangerous of course, but also alive, its nostrils belching smoke and dilated by a desire that drove it to lust after nude, sleeping girls' (Brassaï, Conversations with Picasso, J.M. Todd, trans., Chicago & London, 2002, pp. 8-9).
While Picasso himself discussed his earlier pictures of the Minotaur as being 'dandies and dilettantes' embroiled in a world of endless orgies and festivities, he himself was aware of the tragic aspect of this creature within his own personal mythology. 'A minotaur can't be loved for himself,' he told Françoise Gilot. 'At least he doesn't think he can. It just doesn't seem reasonable to him, somehow' (Picasso, quoted in F. Gilot & C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, Toronto & London, 1964, p. 50). Picasso saw himself as this monster, as a hirsute force of nature, all the more so now that he, while in his fifties, was having an affair with a woman three decades his junior, an awareness of which was painfully evoked by his image of Silenus. While the earlier scenes of Minotaurs saw them in their sensual revels, now a more mature aspect of the relationship came to the fore, a tender dependence, the monster humbled yet still supported. As Kirk Varnedoe has explained about similar images:
'At this point in his life, if not well before, he had come to think of himself as a "monster" in a complex way - not simply as a beast of marauding instincts but as a freak of nature in a higher sense. He gave friends to understand that he lacked complete comprehension of his own special creative powers; he said he felt commanded by, rather than only in possession of, his gifts. It is this imagining of himself simultaneously as a sacré monster and a monstre sacré, set apart by his special powers and isolated by inner forces fated to drive him according to their demands, which finds form in the part-man, part-animal who is both blessed and cursed by his transcendence of the conventions of human society' (K. Varnedoe, 'Picasso's Self-Portraits', pp. 110-79, W. Rubin, ed., Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation, London, 1996, pp. 153-55).