‘Woman with a Watch’: Pablo Picasso painting sells for $139 million

NEW YORK: On Wednesday, Pablo Picasso’s 1932 masterpiece “Femme à la montre” (“Woman with a Watch“) fetched over $139 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York, claiming the title of the highest-priced piece of art sold at auction this year worldwide.
This painting is a highlight of the autumn art auction scene in New York City, which is often regarded as a gauge for the overall art market.It was auctioned off as a part of a collection belonging to the late philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau, which was estimated to be worth around $400 million.
Julian Dawes, the house’s head of impressionist and modern art, called the Picasso canvas “a masterpiece by every measure.”
“Painted in 1932 — Picasso’s ‘annus mirabilis’ — it is full of joyful, passionate abandon yet at the same time it is utterly considered and resolved,” he said.
The sale of “Femme à la montre” marked it as the second-highest auction price for a Picasso, trailing only behind “Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’),” which was sold for $179.3 million at a Christie’s auction in 2015, including the buyer’s premium.
The painting, whose title translates to “Woman with a Watch,” depicts Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s mistress, in a regal chair set against a blue backdrop. The watch in the title is a recurring element in Picasso’s depictions of his wife, the Russian-Ukrainian ballerina Olga Khokhlova.
Walter was just 17 when she began a clandestine affair with the then 45-year-old Picasso in Paris. Despite Picasso’s marriage to Khokhlova, Walter inspired a series of his artworks, including the 1932 “Femme nue couchée,” which itself sold for $67.5 million at a 2022 auction.
1932 was a critical year for Picasso, who, at the age of 50, was already renowned but still driven to prove his detractors wrong. They had cast doubt on whether his best days were behind him, a sentiment refuted by institutions like the Tate Modern museum.
Fisher Landau had acquired the painting in 1968 from the Pace Gallery in New York and had it displayed in her Manhattan apartment, as noted by Sotheby’s.
The artwork was ultimately purchased by an anonymous buyer who outbid two others to secure the painting.
(With inputs from agencies)


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