Pablo Picasso - La Danse des Banderilles


The dance of the Banderillas

Original Lithograph, Crayon composition on transfer paper tranferred to stone, Vallauris, February 14th 1954, on Arches paper, signed by the artist in red pencil. Verso is a collectors stamp with initials GBL


Bloch, Georges. Pablo Picasso, catalogue de l'oeuvre gravé et lithographié, 4 vol. Berne: Kornfeld and Klipstein. 1968-1979. (I:68) (Bloch 752)

Mourlot, Fernand. Picasso: Lithographs. Boston: Book & Art Publisher. 1970 number 248

Online Picasso Project 54.061

Mourlot Sale 1994 - Lot 178

Mourlot Sale 2003 - Lot 239

Edition: /50 ; There were also 6 artists proofs.

Size: Image: 49 x 65.2 cm

Note: La danse des banderilles depicts a play-bullfight between a beautiful woman and a classical-looking man. The bullfight was a subject Picasso returned to frequently, particularly from the mid-1950s (see also Tate T06803). It was also a favourite spectator sport for the artist from an early age, when he enjoyed regular visits to the Málaga bullring with his family. Picasso's biographer Roland Penrose has written that, apart from his enjoyment of the action, 'the main involvement for Picasso was not so much with the parade and the skill of the participants but with the ancient ceremony of the precarious triumph of man over beast ... The man, his obedient ally the horse, and the bull were all victims of an inextricable cycle of life and death.' (Roland Penrose, "Beauty and the Monster", in Penrose and Golding 1973, p.170). In this work, however, the bullfight has become role play. The banderillero, the bullfighter whose hazardous task is to drive short decorated darts into the neck or shoulders of the bull in order to slow it down, is turned into a young woman who is gracefully poised to strike her prey, an older man carrying a bull's head mask who kneels in front of her, as if in submission. The fight between man and bull is transformed into an artificial erotic game and an ironic comment on the battle of the sexes at a time when Picasso was said to be particularly aware of his own inevitable ageing. The ethnographer and writer Michel Leiris has noted that in Picasso's work people often 'interpose a mask between themselves and those who are looking at them (occasionally, following the Spanish custom, a mask of a stuffed or artificial bull's head), and sometimes they unmask themselves: in these cases the emphasis is on the pretence which transforms the man looked at into something he is not and allows him to escape the other person's stares. They are examples of the games of truth versus falsehood that Picasso so often indulged in.' (Michel Leiris, 'The Artist and his Model', in Penrose and Golding 1973, p. 251). The scene is observed by a group composed of a baboon, an old peasant woman, a younger woman with a tambourine, wearing a bullfighter's costume, and a young girl carrying water, who is looking away. These heterogeneous characters, reminiscent of the acrobats of Picasso's blue period, recur at different times throughout Picasso's work, particularly the old woman, who is often portrayed as a procuress, and the baboon. The baboon may in fact be a cipher for Picasso himself, who had first portrayed himself as a monkey as early as 1903 (Self-portrait as a Monkey, ink on paper, Museu Picasso, Barcelona) - cf. Picasso par lui même - and, only a month before making this work, in an ink drawing (In the Studio, Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris) where the artist at his easel in front his model was metamorphosed into a monkey on a stool, holding a palette and brush - cf. Dans l'atelier XIV (pour Verve: Revue artistique et littéraire) Museu Picasso, Barcelona

Published by: Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.

Printed by: Mourlot Freres, Paris, France

Provenance:  Galerie Thomas, Munich - Their label verso

Public Collections:

MOMA, New York, Object Number 410.1954

Tate Gallery, Reference P11367,

The Harvard Art Museum - Accesion Object Number M12939