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)