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Pablo Picasso

Head of a Musketeer (Cardinal Richelieu ?)


Pablo Picasso
Málaga, Spain, 1881 – Mougins, France, 1973


Head of a Musketeer (Cardinal Richelieu ?)




Oil on canvas


81 x 64.8 cm


Gift of Stella and Adolf Ullman, inv. 2004.135


Western Art

Picasso carried on his discourse with the Old Masters in a remarkably familiar, not to say impertinent, manner. Quite shamelessly, yet with deep empathy, he measured himself against the great masters of painting – figures like Velázquez, Poussin, Rembrandt, Delacroix and Manet. This so-called Head of a Musketeer is a reinterpretation of the brilliant Triple Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu painted about 1642 by Philippe de Champaigne. It is an exercise in style, one might even say a faceoff. The iconography of this astounding triple portrait could not fail to attract the founder of Cubism. Presenting the face and both profiles, it was originally intended for a sculptor who was to use it as a model for a bust of the Cardinal, being unable to do it from life. This is Picasso’s way of solving the original problem: to show all the faces of a single individual on the same canvas and all three dimensions, with the centre line of the face clearly outlining the profile. The painting thus functions like a visual puzzle, an amusement for scholarly art lovers.

© Estate of Picasso / SOCAN (2021)

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