Seated Harlequin

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, Malaga 1881–1973 Mougins, France )

Oil on canvas, lined and mounted to a sheet of pressed cork
32 3/4 x 24 1/8 in. (83.2 x 61.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. John L. Loeb Gift, 1960
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Description

    After experimenting with a variety of styles in the year following his arrival in Paris, Picasso developed a style properly his own in autumn 1901. He painted six canvases, all about the same size, with either a single figure or a couple seated at a café table, that together constitute one of the greatest achievements the twenty-year-old artist had yet accomplished. The paintings derive from the 1870s café scenes of Degas and Manet, as reworked by Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Lautrec in the 1880s and 1890s. For this one, Picasso borrowed the flowery wallpaper from the background of Van Gogh's La Berceuse (1889, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996.435), which he would have seen at the Galerie Vollard.

    Picasso revised the painting a great deal before settling on the final arrangement: he first depicted Harlequin without ruffs at the neck or cuffs; a large glass stood on the table where the match striker now appears; Harlequin's bicorne hat originally rested behind his right hand; and the floral wallpaper was more extensive and not hidden by the high banquette.

    By 1901 Harlequin was a ubiquitous figure in popular culture. He usually carried a baton, or slapstick, and wore a black mask. However, Picasso gave his Harlequin a white face and ruffs: the attributes of Pierrot, the melancholy, cuckolded clown who inevitably loses his love, Columbine, to the nimble and lusty Harlequin. Many writers have suggested that the pensive mood of this picture and the series to which it belongs were the result of Picasso's brooding on the suicide of his friend Carles Casagemas, who, like Pierrot, was unrequited in love.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: Signed and dated in red paint, lower left: ¦Picasso¦ / 1901

  • Provenance

    [Possibly William Uhde, Paris, until ca. 1906; sold to Suermondt]; Edwin Suermondt, Aachen (by 1906, until 1912 or 1913); [Der Neue Kunstsalon (Max Dietzel), Munich, by 1913; consigned in 1913 and sold by 1916 to Thannhauser]; [Heinrich Thannhauser, Munich, by 1916, until at least 1918, and probably until 1922, stock no. 5041; sold to Rosenberg]; [Paul Rosenberg, 1922; sold in May for 18,000 francs ($1,700) to Quinn]; John Quinn, New York (1922–d. 1924); his sister, Julia Quinn Anderson, New York (1924–30 or slightly later); her daughter, Mary Anderson, New York (until May 1936; sold together with Seurat's "Les Poseuses," through Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan, to McIlhenny); Henry P. McIlhenny, Philadelphia (May–November 1936); his sister, Mrs. John (Bernice) Wintersteen, Villanova, Pennsylvania (until December 1936; sold through Cesar M. de Hauke of Jacques Seligmann & Co. to Clifford); Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clifford, Radnor, Pennsylvania (1936–60; sold in July 1960, through M. Knoedler & Co., to MMA [purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. John L. Loeb])

  • Exhibition History

    Cologne: Sonderbund Internationale Kunstausstellung, 1912, no. 209 (entitled:Harlekin, 1903).

    Cologne: Der Rheinischer Kunstsalon, 1913 (entitled: Sitzender Pierrot, 1903).

    Munich: Moderne Galerie, Heinrich Thannhauser, Pablo Picasso, 1913.

    New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1926.

    New York: The Museum of Modern Art, Painting in Paris, 1930, no 77.

    New York: Jacques Seligmann & Co., Picasso, Blue and Rose Periods, 1936, cat. no 3, illustrated.

    Boston: Museum of Modern Art, Picasso and Matisse, 1938, cat. no. 2.

    New York: The Museum of Modern Art; Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, Picasso, Forty Years of His Art, 1939, cat. no. 12, illustrated p. 27.

    Mexico: Sociedad de Arte Moderno, Picasso, 1944, cat. p. 41.

    New York: The Museum of Modern Art, Picasso, 1944 ( same exh. as the above).

    Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Masterpieces of Philadelphia Private Collections, 1947, cat. no.50 (entitled: Harlequin Resting on Elbow).

    New York: Knoedler & Cie., Picasso Before 1907, cat. no. 5, illustrated.

    Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clifford, 1947.

    Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Picasso, 1958, cat. no. 10 (entitled: Harlequin Seated).

    Marseilles: Musée Cantini, Cinquante Chefs d'Oeuvres de Picasso, 1959, cat. no. 4, illus.

    New York: Knoedler and Co., April 24 - May 12, 1962. ¦Benefit Exhibition for the Public Education Association¦.

    New York: Knoedler Galleries, Picasso, an American Tribute, 1962, cat. no. 15, illustrated in color.

    New York: Museum of Modern Art, May 22 - September 16, 1980. ¦Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective¦. p. 41 (illus. in color).

    Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, June 5 - September 1, 1991. New York: IBM Gallery of Science and Art, October 15 - December 28, 1991. ¦Pleasures of Paris: Daumier to Picasso¦. Exh. cat. #190, p. 178.

    France: Musee Picasso, October 15, 1998 - January 15, 1999. ¦Picasso: 1901 - 1909¦.

    New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Painters in Paris 1895-1950, March 8 -
    December 31, 2000, p. 16, illus. in color.

    Kyoto,Japan: Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, September 14-November 24, 2002; Tokyo: The Bunkamura Museum of Art, December 7, 2000 - March 9, 2003, Picasso and the School of Paris, Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. plate 5, p.37, illus. in color, details pp.35-36, also illus.on cover of catalog.

    Barcelona, Spain: Museu Picasso, November 15, 2006–June 10, 2007;
    Martigny, Switzerland: Fondation Pierre Gianadda, March 9-June 10, 2007; Picasso and the Circus.

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  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History