Medium: Original Etching, Paris, 1927, on Rives paper, an unsigned impression from the book edition
Edition: This comes from the book edition made on the 12th November 1931.
There were a total of 340 impressions made of which 240 examples were on velin de Rives paper (Our example). There was also a signed and numbered edition made on Van Gelder paper with wider margins in an edition of 99
Note 1: This is an etching which was made to illustrate a publication of the work by Balzac, plate 6 in the table of etchings. It consisted of 12 etchings by Picasso and a wood engraving by Georges Aubert after a drawing by Picasso. Le chef d’oeuvre inconnu can be considered Balzacs appreciation of artistic faith expressed in painting. His character is an old painter called Frenhofer who has worked for many years on a painting entitled “La belle Noiseuse” for over 10 years. The author explores the difficulties faced by the artist with his delights in the making of the work and attempts at perfection of the finished product. He also considers the complex relationship between the artist and his model. In Frenholders eyes the model he has painted on his canvas has become his lover. His friends, however, Porbus and the young Pouissin (both famous painters) see only confused colours. When Frenhofer realises that his friends do not understand or appreciate his work he burns his painting and kills himself. Picasso does not illustrate the actual story in his etchings but explore the deeper meanings behind this and the complex relationship between artist and model. It was Ambroise Vollard who asked Picasso to illustrate Balzac's text in 1926 and Albert Bernard, a friend of Vollard’s who wrote the preface to the book. The young woman portrayed in this etching seems to have a likeness to Marie-Therese. See also Zervos VII - 44 & 45, dated 1926 for drawing similar works.
References: Georges Bloch, Volume I: Catalogue of the Printed Graphic Work 1904-1967 (Berne: Editions Kornfeld and Klipstein, 1971) Reference number 87
Brigette Baer, “Picasso Peintre-Graver” Volume 1 (1899 - 1931) number 128
Published by: Ambroise Vollard, Paris, 1931 -
Printed by: Louis Fort, Paris
Size: 245 x 325 mms (Paper size) ; 278 x 196 mms (Plate size)