Francis Picabia broke with Dada in 1921 and with Breton in 1924. Gertrude Stein will however identify him as the archetype of the surrealist artist. He begins in 1928 his series of Transparences.
Choosing in his art books the images of antique statues and of Renaissance paintings, he copies them in intermingled line drawings. This approach pleases Duchamp who sees in it a non-stereoscopic creation of the third dimension. The title sometimes reveals the origin of the main model, for example Hera, or Adam and Eve.
On February 26 in London, Sotheby's sells Atrata, oil and pencil on panel 150 x 95 cm painted circa 1929, lot 38 estimated £ 1.5M. The composition is centered on the portrait of a man by Botticelli. The view is very blurred by the subsidiary images, except the almost horizontal alignment of four eyes that certainly delighted Duchamp. It is decoded in the video shared by the auction house.
Mélibée, oil on canvas 195 x 130 cm painted circa 1931, is an exception in this series by the unambiguous belonging of the transparent elements to a unique theme, consistent moreover with the personal difficulties of Picabia rejected successively by his wife and his mistress.
In La Celestina, Mélibée is the lover pushed to suicide by the death of her lover fallen from the ladder while passing the high wall of the garden after their sexual activity. Published in 1499 in Burgos as a dialogue, this work had many assets to please the surrealists : it is neither a novel, nor a poem, nor a play, the story is torrid, and the name of the alleged author is only revealed by the suite of initial letters in the stanzas of the prologue.
In Picabia's painting, the face copying a Madonna by Piero della Francesca remains very fair and the superposition of branches, leaves and pine needles is a reference to the garden of love. Her lover is curled up in full nudity in a corner.
Announced by gallery owners Marianne and Pierre Nahon as the preferred artwork in their collection, Mélibée is estimated € 2,5M for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on March 19, lot 10.
Transparences cannot be used to illustrate a book and the source of inspiration is too difficult to convey to the public. Mélibée appears like an ultimate achievement of this short lived style terminated by Picabia in 1933.
RESULTS including premium :
Atrata : SOLD for £ 3.7M
Mélibée : SOLD for € 3.9M