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Harlequin and His Companion (The Saltimbanque), 1901

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Artist Picasso, Pablo

This picture was painted in Paris in the early autumn of 190] and dedicated to a “modem” scene depicting the life of an artist symbolically as a harlequin. Such a theme is typical for Picasso during his second stay in the French capital. Harlequin, a prominent hero of the “Commedia dell’ Arte,” also show a picture called Reclining Harlequin, painted at about the same time as the present picture, while a related female portrait is shown in a picture called Woman With a Chignon. The above mentioned paintings are stylistically close to The Absinthe Drinker from the Hermitage and to Portrait of the Poet Sabartes in the Pushkin Museum.

The following sketches may be considered preliminary studies for the present work: a pen study of a harlequin figure, a pencil drawing of his female companion, and a drawing depicting a harlequin embracing a woman.

Relating the image of the harlequin to the artist (the painter himself) is confirmed by a later painting of 1905, when Picasso returned to this theme in At the Lapin Agile. In this picture, the painter depicted himself in a harlequin’s costume accompanied by a prostitute. Here again, he shows in the foreground the large and small glasses present in the Pushkin Museum canvas, although they serve a different purpose. In the Pushkin Museum painting, the harlequin has the white face of a tragic Pierrot, while his girl friend's is reminiscent of a Japanese mask. Some scholars have found that the early images of Italian comedy depicted by Picasso are similar to the symbolic images of Verlaine’s late poetry (R. Johnson, “Picasso's Parisian Family and the ‘Saltimbanques,’ ” Arts Magazine, 51, Jan. 1977, pp. 90-95). A. Podoxic suggests that the images depicted in the painting were taken from Parisian cafés where young actors performed.

The Pushkin Museum painting can be considered one of the best samples of Picasso's stained-glass period, which was at its best at the end of his second stay in Paris. In the pictures of this period, strong, flexible, and dark contours separating figures and objects from their realistic surroundings play the major role in creating separate, lonely images. Harlequin and His Companion is painted over another unknown earlier picture. Painting
over a previously made or even a freshly painted picture became characteristic of Picasso's work at the end of 1901, which marked the beginning of a new stylistic period that was later called his “Blue Period.”


Signed, top left: Picasso

Pushkin Museum, inv. no. 3400

Provenance: Bought by I. Morozov from A. Vollard. Paris. 1908. for 300 francs: 1919—1923. Second Museum of Modern Western Painting. Moscow: 1923-1948. Museum of Modem Western Art. Moscow: since 1948. Pushkin Museum. Moscow.



Institution Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 73 x 60 cm













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