One of the most important of Picasso's Blue Period canvases, this work is a remarkable restatement of the Christian sacrament—the ritual of tasting bread and wine to evoke the flesh and blood of Christ—in contemporary terms. Lit with the mystical light of El Greco, the composition derives its strength from its sparse setting and restricted palette.
Picasso described the painting in a letter to his friend the French poet Max Jacob: "I am painting a blind man at the table. He holds a piece of bread in his left hand and with his right hand reaches for a jug of wine. There is a dog nearby that looks at him. I am quite happy with it [although] it is not yet finished."
Technical analysis shows that the dog appeared in an earlier state of the picture, at bottom left, near the plate. Underneath the present composition is another work, a crouching female nude seen in profile.
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[Galerie Vollard, Paris, by 1906/7–1912, stock no. 5456; probably purchased from the artist; sold on December 11, 1912, for Fr 3,000 and shipped on January 10, 1913, to Moderne Galerie]; [Moderne Galerie (Heinrich Thannhauser), Munich, 1912–13, stock no. 3272; sold in February 1913 to Koenig]; Hertha Koenig and her brother, Helge Siegfried Koenig, Munich (1913–50; consigned by November 16, 1949, until November 1950 to Justin K. Thannhauser, New York; sold in November 1950, through Thannhauser, for $38,500 to MMA)
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Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition," May 4–September 8, 1957, unnumbered cat. (p. 19).
Art Institute of Chicago. "Picasso: 75th Anniversary Exhibition," October 29–December 8, 1957, unnumbered cat.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Picasso: A Loan Exhibition of His Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints and Illustrated Books," January 8–February 23, 1958, no. 12.
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Lucy Belloli inPicasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Gary Tinterow and Susan Alyson Stein. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2010, p. 63, figs. 22.2 (X-radiograph), 22.5 (Infrared reflectogram).
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