Picasso Painted His Lover as a Sea Creature. Now, a Big Sale

The painting fetched $67.5M
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2022 12:00 PM CDT
Picasso Painted His Lover as a Sea Creature. Now, a Big Sale
A work by Pablo Picasso entitled "Femme nue couch?e" is displayed at Sotheby's in New York, Wednesday, May 11, 2022. This work, along with others, will be up for auction starting May 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Being depicted as a tentacled sea creature by your lover may not sound like the highest compliment. But when that lover is Pablo Picasso, well ... it's a whole other story. Femme nue Couchée, a painting that imagines Marie-Thérèse Walter as a five-limbed sea creature, sold for $67.5 million at Sotheby’s auction in New York on Tuesday. The Guardian characterizes it as "one of the highest prices ever achieved for a portrait of Walter," and CNN notes it topped the $60 million the painting was expected to fetch (though it flags two other depictions of Walter, also from 1932, that sold for more than $100 million each).

It was the first time the work had been up for auction, having passed from Picasso's descendants to the anonymous seller in 2008. A Sotheby's rep called it "a deeply lyrical ode to the artist’s unbound desire for Marie-Thérèse; with her fin-like, endlessly pliable limbs, the portrait continues to enchant as it perfectly captures Picasso’s muse as the ultimate expression of his genius." The two met when Walter was 17 and Picasso a married 45-year-old. Walter ultimately gave birth to his second child, Maya. Picasso died in 1973, and Walter in 1977. An interesting side note from Reuters: Though Walter loved swimming, Picasso never learned to swim. (More Pablo Picasso stories.)

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