This pastel is a study for "Three Women at the Spring" (The Museum of Modern Art, New York), Picasso's major neoclassical composition painted in the autumn of 1921. Although the gigantic goddesses in that work seem otherworldly, their features were in fact inspired by Picasso's wife, the Russian dancer Olga Kokhlova. The scale and technique, however, derive from the ancient wall paintings Picasso had seen in and around Rome and Naples in 1917 while working for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; it was on that same trip that he met and fell in love with Olga.
Inscription: Signed in black pastel, lower right: P¦icasso¦; dated below, in graphite: Septembre 1921 Dated and inscribed on verso, upper left: Septembre 1921 / Fountainebleau
[Paul Rosenberg, Paris, by 1922–no later than 1924; sold before January 1924 to Thayer]; Scofield Thayer, Vienna and New York ( ca. 1922/24–c. 1982; on extended loan to the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, 1931–82, inv. 31.769; his bequest to MMA)
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