Pablo Picasso, ‘Venus et l’Amour Voleur de Miel’, 1957, Dellasposa
Pablo Picasso, ‘Venus et l’Amour Voleur de Miel’, 1957, Dellasposa

Annotated ‘Le fait’ [trans. ‘the fact’] and dated 12.6.57 and 13.6.57’; inscribed ‘(Cranach l’Ancien venus et l’amour voleur de miel. Collection Lehman)’, by the artist’s hand in black, upper left on verso

Signature: Signed by the artist ‘Piccasso’ in blue crayon, lower right on paper

Publisher: Fernand Mourlot, London

Pablo Picasso worked in close collaboration with the master printer Fernand Mourlot in Paris, especially when working in colour lithography, which he found to be a laborious and challenging printing medium. Picasso’s dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, explained the source of the artist’s inspiration: ‘One of Picasso’s notable characteristics was his need to transform existing works of art, to compose ‘variations on a theme’, as it were. His point of departure was often simply a reproduction in a book; or even a postcard sent by myself, such as [a painting by] Cranach.’

In 1957, Picasso created a gouache painting after a magazine illustration of 'Venus with Cupid the Honey Thief' by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1580-1620). Painting on an oak panel, this work now resides in the Lehman collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Picasso was so inspired by the work that he, alongside the master printer Fernand Mourlot, produce the work as a lithographic print. Here, the goddess Venus and her son Cupid stand beside a tree at the edge of a leafy thicket. Wearing jewellery and a large hat over sn embroidered snood, Venus gazes out toward the viewer. She holds a diaphanous veil across her hips. Cupid, who carries a honeycomb taken from a hive in the tree trunk, is attacked by a swarm of bees and cries out to his mother in distress.

Fernand Mourlot, Picasso Lithographs IV., Catalogue Raisonné 1956-1963 (Monte Carlo: Andre Sauret, 1964), no. 183 (illustrated)

About Pablo Picasso

A prolific and tireless innovator of art forms, Pablo Picasso impacted the course of 20th-century art with unparalleled magnitude. Inspired by African and Iberian art and developments in the world around him, Picasso contributed significantly to a number of artistic movements, notably Cubism, Surrealism, Neoclassicism, and Expressionism. Along with Georges Braque, Picasso is best known for pioneering Cubism in an attempt to reconcile three-dimensional space with the two-dimensional picture plane, once asking, “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” Responding to the Spanish Civil War, he painted his most famous work, Guernica (1937), whose violent images of anguished figures rendered in grisaille made it a definitive work of anti-war art. “Painting is not made to decorate apartments,” he said. “It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Picasso’s sizable oeuvre includes over 20,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, theater sets, and costume designs.

Spanish, 1881-1973, Malaga, Spain, based in Paris and Mougins, France