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La Minotauromachia

Pablo Picasso

European Art

A prolific printmaker throughout his entire career, Pablo Picasso considered himself an heir to Rembrandt. His Minotauromachy etching is regarded as one of his finest statements in that medium. At the time he created it, he was married to Olga Khokhlova while also in a relationship with the young Marie-Thérèse Walter, who was then pregnant. The enigmatic image has been interpreted as reflecting the turmoil of what he called “the worst period of my life.” The composition is dominated by the Minotaur, a mythical creature with a bull’s head and a man’s body. Picasso began using the Minotaur, symbolizing the personality as divided between a conscious sense of responsibility and unconscious instinct, as his allegorical alter ego in the early 1930s. The etching’s title also references another of the artist’s favorite themes: bullfighting, or tauromaquia.

Here, the Minotaur advances toward a young girl at the left who bears some resemblance to Marie-Thérèse. Between them is a disemboweled horse carrying a wounded torrera (female bullfighter), whose abdomen is swollen as if pregnant and whose profile is clearly that of Marie-Thérèse. A bearded man climbing a ladder and two girls with doves in a tower above watch the drama. A psychosexual self-portrait, this provocative image alludes to Picasso’s complicated relationships with women and his problematic attitudes toward them. Elements from the Minotauromachy—the bull, terrified horse, and girl holding a light—also served as visual sources for Guernica, his 1937 mural about the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Fascism.

Picasso inscribed Brooklyn’s proof impression to his friend the Surrealist artist Man Ray.
MEDIUM Etching on laid paper
DATES 1935
DIMENSIONS sheet: 23 9/16 × 29 1/2 in. (59.8 × 74.9 cm) image: 19 9/16 × 27 5/16 in. (49.7 × 69.4 cm)  (show scale)
MARKINGS Watermarks: "MONTVAL" and barely discernable circles at lower corners, same as proof in Musee Picasso.
INSCRIPTIONS Lower right in ink: "Picasso" Boldly inscribed in ink: "Epreuve d'etat tiree pour Man Ray avec l'Amite qu'a pour lui. Picasso, Paris, '29, Septembre XXXVI"
CREDIT LINE Frank L. Babbott Fund, Frederick Loeser Fund, and Museum Collection Fund
PROVENANCE September 29, 1936, gift of the artist to Man Ray; until at least 1941, with Man Ray; between 1941 and 1959, provenance not yet documented; by 1959, acquired by Peter H. Deitch Gallery, New York, NY; 1959, purchased from Peter H. Deitch Gallery by the Brooklyn Museum.
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MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973). La Minotauromachia, 1935. Etching on laid paper, sheet: 23 9/16 × 29 1/2 in. (59.8 × 74.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund, Frederick Loeser Fund, and Museum Collection Fund, 59.30. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 59.30_SL1.jpg)
STATE Artist's Proof
IMAGE overall, 59.30_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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